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About the only thing you really need to know about Gary Glenn, the man probably best associated with opposition to the proposed expansion of Mt. Pleasant’s non discrimination ordinance, is that he thinks that homosexuality ought to be a crime and that in his e mail to city commissioners used a line of argument that down in Macomb County ended in a defamation lawsuit.

Glenn wrote to city commissioners and told them that expanding the city’s non discrimination ordinance to cover gays and lesbians would put children at risk of being exposed to homosexual sex acts. That’s not his exact wording, of course. I believe his exact wording was that it would cause the privacy of women and children to be violated.

There are a few things you could say about that, like its inherent silliness. The ordinance itself is silent on laws involving public sex, and instead says much about employment and housing. There’s a good reason for that, which is that state law already forbids people from having sex in public bathrooms, and a local ordinance can’t change that (of course, no one is trying, but that’s another story). State law, by the way, is also silent on discrimination against homosexuals in both employment and housing, which suggests that there is a good reason for a community that isn’t interested in continued foot dragging in Lansing to act.

What’s left, of course, is an attempt to fear monger. Glenn didn’t specifically say that children would be subjected to homosexual sex, but that’s only because he used a soft sell on the thing. The harder sell of it was made a couple of years ago in Macomb County during the 10th Senate District primary, where the campaign of one Republican accused another of supporting legislation that would subject children to homosexual sex acts in public park restrooms.

It sparked a defamation lawsuit, and because not a lick of it was true, a public apology from the candidate whose campaign was responsible. The same is true of Glenn’s fear mongering. Forbidding discrimination in the workplace or housing isn’t going to potentially expose children to homosexual sex acts in public restrooms. The sort of person who’d make that kind of wild, speculative claim is best simply ignored.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that Glenn has said before that he thinks that homosexuality ought to be a crime. Okay, again, he frequently uses a dishonest dodge. He says he thinks states ought to be allowed to criminalize homosexuality, the way it was in the United States for a long time (and akin to how the United States for much of its history treated every non white, non Christian, non male person residing in within its borders as a second class citizen). It’s a coward’s argument.

Cowards appeal to fear, and in this case it’s fear of things that make us different. It’s about walling ourselves off and regarding other people who aren’t exactly like us with suspicion and intolerance.

It’s also an argument of inhumanity but also against prosperity.

In a globalized, flat economy, the primary driver of success is learning how to harness and leverage talent. By talent, that means talented people,
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people whose abilities and innate creativeness are more important than making sure they fit into a narrow demographic preference. A business that wants to compete globally seeks out talented people, no matter who they sleep with.

This is one of those rare opportunities where the right thing to do, ethically and morally, is also the right thing to do from a business standpoint. The nation’s business community was delighted when the current governor, Rick Snyder, highlighted talent as the critical tool to competing globally in December (sadly, the governor has a serious case of cognitive dissonance when it comes to immigration and homosexuality). A community that wants to take part in global prosperity would be smart to do the same. Communities that refuse to bring themselves into the 21st century put themselves at risk of sinking into irrelevance and economic stagnation.

Sadly, the state Legislature is currently run by neanderthals. They claim to represent the best interests of business, but when business interests said last year that banning public employers from offering same sex benefits would hurt them in the global competition for talent they were ignored. So, it’s up to local communities to take the lead.

Mt. Pleasant could join the small number of communities across the state that say that it is interested in participating in the economy of tomorrow, and at the same time doing what is simply the morally and ethically right thing to do. Or, it could give in to cowards and bigots, who can muster no argument better than ham handed fear mongering.

Eric Baerren is a Morning Sun columnist.

Vestaburg students place in essay contest

Three students from Vestaburg Middle School have been named local winners in the 43rd annual America Me Essay Contest. Cammi Williamson was awarded first place and will have her name engraved on a plaque for permanent display at the school. Nathan Fierke was awarded second place and Heather Fishburn was awarded third place.

Vestaburg Middle School’s participation in the America Me Essay Contest was sponsored by Farm Bureau Insurance Agent John Musser of Alma.

Williamson’s essay now advances to the state level competition, from which the top 10 essays in Michigan will be selected. The top ten statewide winners, who will be announced in April, will each receive of a plaque, a medallion and a cash award of $1,000. In addition, the top 10 essayists will be honored at a banquet in Lansing, meet with Michigan’s top governmental leaders, and be the featured guests at a Lansing Lugnuts minor league baseball game dedicated in their honor.

MSU Museum announces award recipients

The Michigan State University Museum announced honorees in two programs celebrating and sustaining traditional arts practices in the state: the 2012 Michigan Heritage Awards and the 2012 Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program Recipients. Local students Gegek Tobias and Waasamoo Pamp of Mt. Pleasant were Apprenticeship recipients along with their master artist, Kelly Church of Hopkins, for black ash basketry.

Calvin College announces fall 2011 Dean’s List

Calvin College has announced its fall 2011 Dean’s List, which requires that students maintain at least a 3.5 grade point average for the semester and have at least a 3.3 cumulative grade point average. Local students on the Dean’s List include Josiah M. Ringelberg of Clare, Mark T. Armstrong of Alma, and Rebekah M. Wissink of Big Rapids.

Alma College hosts Science Olympiad tournament

Alma College will host the Science Olympiad Region 15 Tournament on Saturday. The event gives middle school and high school students from the region an opportunity to apply their knowledge of science to various challenges during the tournament. in the Art Smith Arena.

The top three middle school teams at the 2011 regional were Sacred Heart Academy, Alma and Reeths Puffer. The top three high schools last year were Sacred Heart Academy, Shelby and Ionia.

Throughout the day, participants and their family members are invited to participate in other activities on campus,
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such as a chemistry show by the Alma College student chemistry club or watching a movie in the Dow Science Center.

Alma Highland Festival offers Early Bird Ticket Special

The Alma Highland Festival will once again offer the Early Bird Ticket Special for admission into the 45th Alma Highland Festival and Games to be held May 25 to 27 on the campus of Alma College. The sale will start Friday April 1 and run through April 30.