Lansing, Michigan To Disown St. Petersburg
Published: August 7, 2013 (Issue # 1772)
Lansing, the capital of the U.S. state of Michigan, recently proposed an initiative to cut sister city ties with St. Petersburg due to the city government’s increasingly intolerant legislation against gays. While the resolution has since been tabled, city council members are still using the relationship between the cities to voice disapproval of St. Petersburg’s discriminatory policies.
On July 15, Lansing First Ward Councilwoman Jody Washington first proposed the initiative to sever ties with St. Petersburg. The action stemmed from a wider campaign in Lansing to expand legislation to protect the rights of the gay community. Lansing city council member Kathie Dunbar drafted the 2006 Lansing Human Rights Ordinance to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression, leading several other local governments to follow suit.
Supporters of the campaign in Lansing’s city council are now attempting to pass or amend other regional Human Rights Ordinances to protect LGBTQ citizens from discrimination, which is not outlawed at the state level. The effort to end the relationship with St. Petersburg is a part of that campaign for the rights of Michigan’s LGBTQ community.
“Can I impact change across the globe from my seat on the Lansing City Council? In most cases, no,” Dunbar told The St. Petersburg Times.
“I am limited in the effect I can have on discrimination in other jurisdictions, and we certainly don’t have the time or resources to issue resolutions condemning human rights violations every time they occur in our own country, much less throughout the world. That said, the events in St. Petersburg offered us a unique opportunity.”
As it turns out, the sister city relationship between Lansing and St. Petersburg has been inactive for years — St. Petersburg is no longer even listed in the Lansing sister city website, with space reserved for more fruitful twin city relationships with places like Guadalajara, Mexico and Otsu, Japan.
The chair of the Lansing Regional Sister Cities Commission, Barbara Roberts Mason, wrote the council that the relationship was not active, having been established with “a particular district of St. Petersburg that no longer exists since the local government was reorganized a few years ago.”
Sister Cities International, founded by U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956 to foster cultural ties across the world and now encompassing 140 countries on six continents, also doesn’t list St. Petersburg as one of Lansing’s partners.
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