Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Public Affairs and Administration

First Advisor

Dr. Udaya Waglé

Second Advisor

Dr. Jesse Smith

Third Advisor

Dr. Thomas Greitens


LGBTQ, phenomenology, public administration, municipal government, case study, public policy


This study explores the knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions (KAP) of municipal managers regarding the LGBTQ+ community in three Michigan cities—Grand Rapids, Holland, and Kalamazoo. The purpose is to understand managers’ beliefs and attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community and how policies are implemented and enforced to reduce discrimination. The specific research questions deal with how the beliefs and attitudes of public managers reflect an understanding of and competency on LGBTQ+ issues, how they are affected by the presence of LGBTQ+ staff members, and how they differ from the actual policy provisions affecting the LGBTQ+ community. These questions are examined in the Narrative Policy Framework where the broader political, religious, and social environments affect the way local governments seek to maintain social equity.

This study uses the phenomenological case study lens, where data is collected from multiple sources. Interviews were conducted with municipal managers and data analysis involved coding and thematizing to understand the frameworks of policy decisions. All 12 public managers interviewed from the three cities were aware of the presence of LGBTQ+ employees, with nine of them acknowledging the presence of LGBTQ+ to enhance public services. One half were aware of LGBTQ+ protections through nondiscrimination ordinances, whereas more than half knew of other policies that helped protect them. Only three had no knowledge or awareness of LGBTQ+ issues. Grand Rapids, the largest of the three cities, provided the most accommodations. Artifacts, which included newspaper articles, meeting minutes, action plans, and any operational document, were examined collectively and not coded like the interviews were. Even though they were not coded, they were still organized in NVIVO separately from interview data because several of the artifacts were news media articles that provided contextual information about a particular topic or current event relating to LGBTQ+ in one of the three cities. Artifacts simply provide information and would not be advanced collectively by identifying emergent themes because the documents are supposed to be much different to provide a broader understanding that informs the policy environment, whereas similarities and differences are examined in interviews and essential to a case study.

Among the factors affecting the environment of nondiscrimination policies concerning LGBTQ+ were religious density (churches per capita), political influencers (like the DeVos family), and corporations (like Herman Miller). Altogether, the lack of awareness and the narratives in the broader policy environment may have helped unfairly define the LGBTQ+ community in a way that is harmful to institutionalizing social rights and benefits.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access