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“Traditional institutions in (Holland) are pushing back, with some warning of a slippery slope to moral relativism. ‘I think it (the proposed anti-discrimination ordinance) will lead to other things,’ said the Rev. Ralph Houston of Immanuel Reformed Church In Fennville. ‘It adds some respectability to (homosexual behavior.)’
In Houston’s view, the best authority on the issue can be found in the Bible, in verses in Leviticus and Romans that condemn homosexuality. ‘If the Bible is true, then we better stick to what the Bible says about homosexuality,’ Houston said. Nonetheless, Houston asserted that Holland needs no gay rights ordinance because he sees no evidence of discrimination.”
GRAND RAPIDS PRESS
How conservative Holland became
HOLLAND — Given its conservative reputation, Holland might seem unlikely ground to launch a battle for gay rights.
A group called Holland is Ready insists this bastion of traditional values is precisely the community where such a fight must be won.
“I believe Holland is far more diverse than communities beyond Holland have recognized.”
“As we try to grow and diversity our economy, this is going to be a factor that people are looking at in terms of where they choose to be. It’s symbolic of what kind of place we want to be.
The issue bubbled to the surface across several fronts in the past year, from a proposal that Holland’s City Council adopt a gay anti-discrimination measure to a clash at Hope College over a campus appearance by Dustin Lance Black, screenwriter of an Oscar-winning movie about gay activist Harvey Milk.
In July, a full-page ad in the Holland Sentinel further stirred the pot as it attacked the proposed city ordinance and what it termed the “myths” of homosexuality. The ad said it was sponsored by the Holland Township company Request Foods and the Family Research Council.
Dozens of letters to the editor and online comments at the Holland Sentinel, some civil, others not, reveal a community divided. Many were critical of the ad.
The former editor-in-chief of the student newspaper recalled a meeting she and some others called in 2009 after college officials blocked an appearance by screenwriter Black to discuss issues raised by the film “Milk.”
In denying Black’s appearance, college officials cited a 1995 policy which says the college will “not provide recognition, financial or logistical support for groups whose purposes include the advocacy or moral legitimization of homosexual behavior.”
That led to formation of the group called Hope is Ready, which West said submitted the names of 745 people, including 342 students demanding repeal of the policy. Not long after, gay rights proponents formed Holland is Ready as the cause mushroomed into a community-wide issue.
“There should be complete inclusiveness at Hope College,” Lubbers said.
“It adds some respectability to (homosexual behavior.)”
“If the Bible is true, then we better stick to what the Bible says about homosexuality,” Houston said.
“I don’t think anyone in Holland would dare discriminate on the basis of homosexuality,” he said.
The commission is expected to discuss the matter at its Thursday meeting.
Kickert declined to predict what that might be, or whether the City Council would adopt a gay rights ordinance if the commission recommends it.
In 2009, voters in Kalamazoo rejected a referendum that would have repealed the city’s gay protection ordinance by 62 percent to 38 percent. Several other Michigan cities, including Grand Rapids, Grand Ledge, Lansing, East Lansing, Detroit and Ann Arbor have measures protecting gay residents.
“I think it’s going to be behind us. Holland is a way more diverse place than people think.