With election day approaching this Tuesday, November 5, 2019, the OutCenter sent out a questionnaire to the 6 candidates running for the Saint Joseph City Commission. Those candidates include three incumbents, Jeff Richards, Laura Goos, and Lynn Todman, as well as three challengers, Al DiBrito, Shawn Hill, and Susan Solon. 

Questions asked pertained to the City of Saint Joseph’s newly amended non-discrimination ordinance (NDO), which was passed unanimously in March of 2019, to add sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression as protections for the LGBTQ+ community, prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

In the interest of transparency and accountability in governance, we are publishing the results prior to the election in order to help educate the voting public about the position of all candidates regarding the non-discrimination ordinance. 

The Questions and Responses:

  • Question:

Understanding that LGBTQ+ Michiganders residing in the City of Saint Joseph were largely unprotected from discrimination, and understanding that the City Commission moved unanimously in March 2019 to adopt a non-discrimination ordinance providing equal protections to LGBTQ+ individuals residing, working, and/or vacationing in the City of Saint Joseph – joining 46 other Michigan cities and towns, and understanding that studies have shown such ordinances benefit the cities and towns that enact them economically, et al., and understanding the City Commission followed protocol to enact said ordinance, would you, if elected to the Saint Joseph City Commission in 2019, support this ordinance, as is, without moving to amend provisions in ways that would erode protections from discrimination and lessen support for equality of LGBTQ+ residents, employees, and visitors of the City of Saint Joseph?

  • Responses by Candidate (listed in alphabetical order):

Al DiBrito: Yes, I will support the ordinance as written. Having said that, I believe I’m the only candidate that has actually investigated civil rights investigations. Although I’ve never investigated an LGBTQ case, as a FBI Special Agent (retired), I have investigated several civil rights investigations to include cross burnings, church fires, excessive use of force and in custody deaths (prison and jail). After reviewing the St Joseph ordinance, I feel I could offer some suggestions that may make the ordinance stronger and close some potential prosecutive and investigative loopholes. Whether I’m elected or not, I’d be more than happy to meet with you and/or your board to discuss.

Jeff Richards: I voted for this ordinance in March 2019.

Laura Goos: As you know, I am a fierce protector of LGBTQ+ rights and will absolutely continue my support of the City of St. Joseph’s Non-Discrimination Ordinance.  Not only does it correct a glaring gap in the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, but it sends the message to our community and its visitors that we are a welcoming and inclusive area. I also believe that by leading the way in SW MI, we have allowed the air cover needed for other municipalities to follow suit. This is the right thing to do and I’m proud that I was a part of making it happen.

Lynn Todman: I would!

Shawn Hill: Thank you for the opportunity to comment on your concerns from the LGBTQ+ community. It is not my intention to try and reverse, or amend the action of the Saint Joseph City Commission that extended more protections to the LGBTQ+ community. I believe everyone should be able to live, work and play in the City without fear of threats or intimidation, of any kind, as the result of their beliefs. I have spoken with several people in the community who shared your concerns, and after I explain my desire to simply treat everyone fairly, they simply said thank you and we agreed this is the best course to take.

Susan Solon: If elected, I would uphold this ordinance, as was passed in March 2019 by the St. Joseph City Commission.

Be an educated voter!

The OutCenter, no matter the outcome of this election, continues to educate others up to and including candidates and elected officials. We need Southwest Michigan to be our home, too.

And know that the OutCenter remains steadfast in our efforts to bring people together in all our diversity, create communities that care about everyone equally, and to ensure that Southwest Michigan is a safe place for the more than 10,000 LGBTQ+ people that call it home.

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