HOLLAND SENTINEL — (Homosexual group) rejects ballot move for gay anti-discrimination initiative

Homosexual activist groups know they would not win a vote
of the people in a city where 64 percent of voters supported
Michigan’s Marriage Protection Amendment. But it doesn’t
mean they’re giving up.

“A gay rights group will not attempt a ballot initiative to amend a city ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity.”


Holland, Michigan
June 28, 2011

Holland is Ready rejects ballot move
for gay anti-discrimination initiative

by Annette Manwell

Holland — A gay rights group will not attempt a ballot initiative to amend a city ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

The decision was made at a Monday meeting of the group. It comes less than two weeks after the Holland City Council denied a request by Bill Freeman, chaplain of Interfaith Congregation, to include the language in its human relations and fair housing ordinances and the equal employment opportunity policy. The council referred Freeman’s request to the city’s Human Relations Commission, which, after almost a year of study, in April recommended that the council include the terms.

A 5-4 vote on June 15 by the city council has forced groups in favor of the inclusion in other directions.

“The vote was a very close one,” the Rev. Jennifer Adams, pastor of Grace Episcopal Church in Holland and spokeswoman for Holland is Ready, wrote in an email. “It’s obvious that Holland, as a community, is moving in the direction of inclusion and equal rights for all.”

“I’m surprised by (Holland is Ready’s) decision; that’s unfortunate,” said city Councilman Brian Burch, who voted against adding the language. He said before the council vote that he was in favor of a ballot initiative.

Holland is Ready “will take the approach of furthering conversation, education and creative initiatives with businesses, local government and organizations who are also working toward enhancing diversity and inclusion,” wrote Adams.

“That’s great, there’s opportunity in that,” was Burch’s response, adding it is necessary to “build understanding for equal and individual rights.”

Until Love is Equal, another group working for equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Holland, was more divided after the Holland is Ready meeting Monday, said Drew Stoppels, lead spokesman for Until Love is Equal.

Many members of Until Love is Equal attended the meeting, he said, and remain in favor of asking Holland voters to include the language. Stoppels, however, is not, saying there is not adequate time before the election to leap all the legal hurdles.

Activists would need to draft petition and ballot language, have it approved by the city’s election commission and obtain 1,310 signatures in the next few weeks in order for the issue to be on the November ballot.

Until Love is Equal’s Facebook page has grown to 2,300 fans. The group is planning two radio shows and has launched a website since it formed, the day after the council vote.
Following the June 15 vote, Freeman said he would pursue a ballot initiative.

Freeman said Tuesday, he is undecided and has concerns about asking the majority for rights of a minority. He plans to make a final decision after meeting with Mayor Kurt Dykstra later this week.

“I am taking some time to discern what’s the best course of action,” Freeman said.

Whatever the next step, it presents an opportunity, Adams said.

“While we were disappointed with the (June 15) vote, the actual process revealed significant momentum toward establishing equality and fairness for all,” she wrote. “As Holland is Ready, we plan to continue to help reveal the vibrant, diverse, welcoming community we’re being given the opportunity to be.”

“I think there’s a spirit of inclusion in Holland,” Burch said. “We do have an amazingly diverse community. We have a lot going for us.”



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