FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Nathan Triplett
Organization: Equality Michigan
Jackson Together Submits Legal Challenge; Calls on City Council to Reject Referendum Petition
March 24, 2017 – Jackson, MI – On February 8, 2017, Jackson became the 42nd community in Michigan to adopt a local ordinance that, among other things, prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations. The ordinance was adopted, after years of community conversation, by a supermajority vote of the Jackson City Council. Unfortunately, an unnamed group filed a petition seeking to overturn the Council’s vote and keep discrimination legal in Jackson. Equality Michigan has been working closely with advocates on the ground to defend the nondiscrimination ordinance against this attempted run-around of the city’s normal legislative process.
With the assistance from Equality Michigan, Jackson Together, the ballot question committee formed to oppose the repeal of the City of Jackson’s comprehensive nondiscrimination ordinance (NDO), has filed a legal challenge to the validity of the referendum petitions. Counsel for Jackson Together delivered a letter to Jackson City Clerk Andrew Wrozek and Jackson City Attorney Bethany Vujnov outlining a series of significant legal deficiencies in the petition itself and the process used by the City Clerk to “certify” the petition, each of which is sufficient cause to disqualify the referendum petition in its entirety. The deficiencies include the petitioners’ failure to adhere to mandatory requirements for referendum petitions set forth in Jackson’s City Charter and Michigan’s Home Rule Cities Act, and the City Clerk’s blatant disregard for both substantive and procedural requirements governing the processing of submitted petitions. Read a copy of the letter here: JT Letter to Vujnov and Wrozek
Jackson Together is being represented by John Pirich of Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP. Pirich is one of the state of Michigan’s preeminent election law attorneys, with recent successes in challenging a statewide petition aimed at repealing Michigan’s prevailing wage in 2015 and representing President Donald Trump’s campaign in the 2016 Michigan recount.
“In sixteen years of working on nondiscrimination ordinances across Michigan, I’ve never come across a petition handed as poorly as the Jackson City Clerk handled this,” said Equality Michigan Director of Public Policy and Political Action Nathan Triplett. “The City Clerk’s personal bias cannot justify or excuse his complete failure to adhere to the legal requirements found in both the Jackson City Charter and state law governing the validity and process of referendum petitions. The Clerk cannot lawfully certify this petition and the Jackson City Council must reject it. Equality Michigan will continue to support Jackson Together and the people of Jackson in their effort to prohibit discrimination in their community.”
The Jackson City Council is scheduled to consider the referendum petition at its Tuesday, March 28 meeting. Jackson Together has requested, through its legal counsel, that the City Council reject the petition as legally “incapable of certification.” If the City Council, despite the numerous legal deficiencies, fails to reject the invalid petition, Jackson Together is prepared to pursue litigation in the Circuit Court and Appellate Courts to ensure that the law is followed and that this discriminatory petition is not permitted to stand.
“This discriminatory referendum petition is a threat to the livelihoods, homes, dignity, and safety of Jackson residents,” said Jackson Together Campaign Manager Conner Wood. “The City Clerk cannot simply ignore the law when it suits him. The Jackson City Council must reject the petition, not only because the law requires it, but because it’s the right thing to do for hardworking Jacksonians who want nothing more than live, work, and play in Jackson free from discrimination.”