[The following is a South Oakland Eccentric editorial]
There was something missing from the 30th anniversary of the Martin Luther King Day celebration held Monday in Southfield.
To be sure, that's hard to believe for a program that lasted more than three hours and that included singing, dancing, awards, thank yous, and performances by the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin and American Idol finalist Malaya Watson.
Certainly remarks by civil rights attorney Fred Gray, who was an attorney for none other than Rosa Parks, were stirring and a call to action. But it was in those words that Southfield was found lacking.
Gray lead off his remarks by deservedly praising the Martin Luther King Task Force that has organized the annual celebrations and worked throughout the years to build awareness of King's mission. Gray even said that the celebration was one that ought to be modeled throughout the nation.
Specifically, he had high praise for what he said was the diversity of the audience, with blacks, whites and all ages represented.
And that is where the problem lies.
A city that has promulgated itself as the "Center of It All," a city that regularly thumps itself on the back for its diversity and for being progressive, there is one thing missing.
That is legal protection under the human rights ordinance for lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender persons is non-existent in Southfield.
Imagine the irony of having served on the city council in that community, and knowing all the while that you have no protections by the city you are working day in and day out improve. That was the situation last year for two council members.
In a report just released, the Human Rights Campaign, in conjunction with the Equality Federation, said that, "There are now more local municipalities in Michigan with LGBTQ protections than any other state in the country, and over 300 LGBTQ couples were able to marry this past March," said Equality Michigan Executive Director Emily Dievendorf.
Southfield is not one of those communities.
"(T)oo many families in Michigan are once again being denied the freedom to marry or having challenges getting their marriages recognized, and our state laws do not adequately protect LGBTQ people or people living with HIV," she said.
An amendment to the city's human rights ordinance originally proposed by former councilman Jeremy Moss and former mayor Brenda Lawrence will be taken up again Monday night.
The concept of equal protection under the law, the knowledge that we all share in the human condition and the philosophy of inclusiveness must be assured by passing this ordinance.
Will that happen? As yet that remains unclear. Acting Council President Sylvia Jordan, who at one point told the South Oakland Eccentric that the issue was "not a priority for the city," recently brought up the ordinance after having stymied its progress.
Some other votes are unclear. Councilwoman Joan Seymour said she wanted to wait for the state to act. That will unfortunately be a long wait, and it appears that this is a case in which local municipalities will have to drive change at the state level.
Most religions preach that we should love our fellow man, but the kiss of peace at Sunday Mass is meaningless without truly recognizing the rights of all people.
It is time to make Southfield the "Center of It All" by welcoming – and protecting – everyone who lives, works or visits there.