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Mich. City Backs Gay Rights Law

May 6, 1998 GMT

YPSILANTI, Mich. (AP) _ Voters retained an anti-discrimination ordinance that includes protection for homosexuals, despite a campaign against it that included an appearance by football star Reggie White.

The 1997 ordinance was kept in place Thursday by a 56 percent to 44 percent vote in this city of 25,000 some 25 miles west of Detroit.

``We’re thrilled and we’re happy,″ said Paul Heaton, a leader of the campaign to retain the ordinance. ``Ypsilanti has decided that it’s going to be a place for everybody to live.″

The City Council unanimously approved the ordinance in December, then suspended it in February after petitioners called for its repeal.

The measure bars discrimination in 14 areas, including race, height, weight, disability and sexual orientation. Convictions of discriminating in housing, employment and city contracts carry a possible $500 fine.

Ordinance opponent Judy Bloss of Ypsilanti’s Bible Church said she did not know what action her group would take next.

``You don’t think that far ahead,″ she said. ``You just do the best you can, then you trust the Lord and then you go forward.″

The balloting came five days after White, the Green Bay Packers star, appeared at a rally held by opponents of the ordinance’s gay rights provision.

``If there’s anything that I’m anti-against, it’s sin,″ White, an ordained minister, said at the time.

The issue gained attention in Ypsilanti in February 1997 when a group of gay Eastern Michigan University students were denied service at a print shop.

Loren and Carole Hansen, owners of Standard Printing Co., cited their religious beliefs in refusing to print tickets for the group’s raffle. The ensuing publicity prompted the City Council’s passage of the ordinance.