GRAND RAPIDS PRESS — Holland gay rights supporters announce plan to get anti-discrimination ordinance passed

Praise the Lord! Homosexual activists know what the outcome
of a ballot vote would be in a city where voters supported our
state Marriage Protection Amendment by 64 percent of the vote.

“Backers of a proposal to expand Holland’s anti-discrimination ordinance to add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes will not pursue a ballot measure to overturn last month’s City Council vote against the proposal. Instead, supporters plan to attend Wednesday’s council meeting and all future meetings until one of the five council members who voted no changes their vote.”

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GRAND RAPIDS PRESS
Grand Rapids, Michigan
July 4, 2011

Holland gay rights supporters announce plan
to get anti-discrimination ordinance passed

by Greg Chandler / The Grand Rapids Press

HOLLAND – Backers of a proposal to expand Holland’s anti-discrimination ordinance to add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes will not pursue a ballot measure to overturn last month’s City Council vote against the proposal.

Instead, supporters plan to attend Wednesday’s council meeting and all future meetings until one of the five council members who voted no changes their vote.

“I don’t think you ask the majority to vote for the rights of the minority,” said Bill Freeman, chaplain of Interfaith Congregation, who has been campaigning for the proposal for more than a year. “I don’t think Dr. (Martin Luther) King asked the people of Alabama to vote for civil rights, and I don’t think you should ask the people of Holland to vote for equal rights for all.”

Supporters of the proposal would have had to get petition language approved by the city, and then collect at least 1,310 signatures by mid-August to put it on the November ballot.

The City Council voted 5-4 June 15 against amending the city’s human relations and fair housing ordinances, as well as its equal employment policy, to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

“We’re going to try to educate them and answer any questions they might have,” Freeman said of the supporters’ plans to attend council meetings.

About 100 people gathered on the steps of City Hall Monday morning for the announcement, with many representing organizations who favor including gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people in equal rights measures. Erin Wilson, of the group Until Love Is Equal, called it a regional and economic issue.

“In a recession, you have to be pragmatic,” said Wilson, of Grand Rapids. “Major employers are not going to come into a region that declares a particular community as unequal. They just won’t.”

Opponents of the measure cite religious and moral objections to homosexuality in their position, and say that existing anti-discrimination laws are adequate. One statewide political action group, the Michigan Campaign for Families, said it would support candidates to run against three council members who voted in favor of expanding the ordinance and who are up for re-election this year.

One of those three council members, Second Ward Councilman Jay Peters, called the decision not to seek a ballot proposal “prudent,” although he would not speculate whether any of the five council members who voted against the measure would change their mind.

“I think the timeline is tight (for a ballot proposal), and to be effective and successful, I’d like to see us regroup as a community and come at it from a different angle,” Peters said.

Mayor Kurt Dykstra cast the tiebreaking vote against expanding the ordinance. Others who voted against the proposal were Councilwoman Nancy DeBoer and Councilmen Mike Trethewey, Brian Burch and Todd Whiteman.

Voting in favor of the expansion were Peters, Mayor Pro Tem Bob Vande Vusse and Councilmen Dave Hoekstra and Shawn Miller.

http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2011/07/holland_gay_rights_supporters.html
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GRAND RAPIDS PRESS — Charley Honey: Gays not faring so well on the Lakeshore

“The Campaign for Michigan Families, affiliated with the American Family Association (of Michigan), wants to help Holland residents depose City Council members who voted but failed to expand the anti-discrimination ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The AFA’s Gary Glenn vowed to support candidates running against those who ‘tried to impose homosexual activists’ political agenda on city residents.’ The AFA also sees the gay agenda behind some lawmakers’ efforts to include sexual orientation in a statewide anti-school bullying bill.”

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GRAND RAPIDS PRESS
Grand Rapids, Michigan
June 25, 2011

(COLUMN)

Gays not faring so well on the Lakeshore

by Charley Honey | The Grand Rapids Press

Although I have been accused, at times, of pushing the so-called “gay agenda,” I must confess I don’t know what it is.
Is it a plan to recruit children to become gay? To include at least one gay character in every sitcom? To impose quotas on the NFL to draft gay linebackers?

Whatever it is, the gay agenda allegedly is running loose on the Lakeshore, judging from objections to recent gay-inclusion proposals there.
The Campaign for Michigan Families, affiliated with the American Family Association, wants to help Holland residents depose City Council members who voted but failed to expand the anti-discrimination ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The AFA’s Gary Glenn vowed to support candidates running against those who “tried to impose homosexual activists’ political agenda on city residents.”

The AFA also sees the gay agenda behind some lawmakers’ efforts to include sexual orientation in a statewide anti-school bullying bill. Was fear of the gay agenda also a factor in the Saugatuck school board’s decision not to adopt a proposed coming-out video in its sex education unit on sexual harassment and bullying, even though gay students are more likely to suffer from that?

Not necessarily. Perhaps opponents simply agreed with board President Mike Van Loon that all bullying is wrong, whether “black, white, pink, purple, short, tall.”

What’s certain: Gay-rights advocates have not fared well on the Lakeshore this year. Include Hope College’s reaffirmation not to recognize campus groups contrary to the Reformed Church in America’s stance against gay relationships.

Religious debate

Religious communities are digging in on the gay issue, even as polls show more of them accepting homosexuality and gay marriage.

Pluralities of Catholics (46 percent) and white mainline Protestants (49 percent) now support gay marriage, while heavy majorities of white evangelicals (74 percent) and black Protestants (62 percent) oppose it, according to a 2010 Pew Research Center poll.

The numbers, while reflecting increasing acceptance on both personal and denominational levels, illustrate a deep persisting divide. Behind the polls, many people thoughtfully debate and discern the complexities. But the more public and polarized version pits the gay-agenda-pushers on one side against homophobes on the other.

Let’s be clear about something, that version’s played out. Just because someone opposes gay marriage doesn’t make her homophobic; she could be sincerely seeking to follow her faith and conscience. And just because someone favors it doesn’t mean he is pushing a broader agenda; he could be sincerely seeking, too.

It’s time for less demonizing and more listening in the middle.

A well-worn pastoral maxim calls for a “both-and” approach to challenging issues. Don’t divide the issue into a choice of either this position or that. Recognize both sides have something to offer and find ways to include both perspectives.

But the both-and option is in short supply in our either-or culture. When it comes to homosexuality, either you’re for legalizing gay marriage and ordaining gay ministers or not. The Bible says this; the Bible says that — end of story.

Where’s the middle ground?

As one who instinctively seeks the middle ground, I find it hard to locate here. How can you include both perspectives in such a basic clash of values? For Christians, there doesn’t seem much room for compromise between those who cite biblical passages condemning homosexual acts and those who see loving acceptance in the larger Scriptural story.

But there is room for protecting churches’ religious rights while ensuring gays’ civil rights. And there is room for listening even if you hold different views.

A lot of people still are working this out. Churches can provide a more inviting venue for people to listen to each other’s stories with respect and compassion.

Room for All is a Reformed Church in America group that seeks full participation of gays and lesbians in the RCA. While dismayed by the recent developments, Executive Director Marilyn Paarlberg says the group offers speakers to help congregations grapple graciously with the issue.
“We can find things that people on both sides of the issue can affirm, then we build from there,” Paarlberg said.

It’s a long-term construction project, but building beats tearing each other down. In a tearing-down culture, more churches should make building bridges their agenda.

http://www.mlive.com/living/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2011/06/charley_honey_gays_not_faring.html
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MICHIGAN MESSENGER — House Committee delays action on anti-bullying legislation, again

“The state legislature has been debating anti-bullying legislation for a decade. It continues to be hamstrung by a difference in opinion by advocates on both sides on whether or not to enumerate — meaning whether to create a list of the groups or traits most likely to be the victims of bullying. The opposition to enumeration is led by the American Family Association of Michigan. They argue enumeration is creating special rights for homosexuals and is really a Trojan horse designed to force schools to become accepting of homosexuality. In favor of enumeration are (homosexual activist) groups like Equality Michigan and the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN).”

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MICHIGAN MESSENGER
Lansing, Michigan
June 30, 2011

House Committee delays action on anti-bullying legislation, again
Ten years and counting for anti-bullying law to pass

by Todd A. Heywood

http://michiganmessenger.com/50376/house-committee-delays-action-on-anti-bullying-legislation-again
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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.”

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HOLLAND SENTINEL
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.”

http://www.hollandsentinel.com/topstories/x2069930711/Holland-is-Ready-rejects-ballot-move-for-gay-anti-discrimination-initiative
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WZZM-TV — Attacks follow Holland's gay rights 'no' vote

“The Holland City Council defeated a proposal that would add sexual orientation to the city’s civil rights policy. …Since then, Michigan anti-gay rights crusader Gary Glenn has called the proposal ‘dangerous.’ Glenn is the president of the American Family Association and (chairman of) the Campaign for Michigan Families. He tells WZZM 13 News that (CMF) will financially help support candidates who run against any of the three council members who voted yes for the failed proposal and are involved in the city’s upcoming election.”

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WZZM-TV CHANNEL 13
Grand Rapids, Michigan
June 20, 2011

Attacks follow Holland’s gay rights no vote

by Steve Patterson and Jessica Puchala

HOLLAND, Mich. — Holland City Council members who voted in favor of amending an ordinance to protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation are now facing an organized effort to remove them from office.

The Holland City Council defeated a proposal that would add sexual orientation to the city’s civil rights policy.

The proposed amendment was brought to the city council to protect gay citizens against discrimination. The proposal was defeated in a 5-to-4 split decision.

Since then, Michigan anti-gay rights crusader Gary Glenn has called the proposal “dangerous.”

Glenn is the President of the American Family Association and The Campaign for Michigan Families. He tells WZZM 13 News that his organization will financially help support candidates who run against any of the three council members who voted yes for the failed proposal and are involved in the city’s upcoming election.

“I think we need to lose this image that we are a little too conservative an unwelcoming,” said 2nd Ward Commissioner Jay Peters. “These kinds of things from the American Family Association only try to keep that going.”

Peters is one of the council members who voted yes and is the only among three members running for re-election who is challenged by opponents. The deadline to file was May 10. Any other challengers will have to write in. Glenn promises support.

“There’s got to be a place where Mr. Glenn has got to focus his interest and try to do some good somewhere else,” said Peters.

Meanwhile, a movement on Facebook to boycott Holland business is growing. A group called “I’m Boycotting Holland Until Love is =” now has close to 500 members.

“It’s a knee-jerk reaction,” said Business Owner Bob Schulze.

Schulze owns Globe Vision in downtown, Holland. He calls the movement shortsighted and ironic, saying that he and many area business owners supported the measure.

“I’m not that upset and I’m really not that nervous,” he said. “I think they will see that they probably don’t want to hurt the businesses that are for the issue.”

http://www.wzzm13.com/news/article/169424/2/Attacks-follow-Hollands-gay-rights-no-vote
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GRAND RAPIDS PRESS — Michigan anti-bullying legislation advocates disagree over language in stalled bill

“A (bullying) bill calling itself ‘Matt’s Safe School Law’ awaits a vote in the Senate. It requires public school districts to adopt anti-bullying policies and submit them to the state. … It does not include language, as does another proposed bill, that specifies a student’s real or perceived race, religion and sexual orientation in its definition of bullying. The American Family Association (of Michigan) has objected to that language as ‘a Trojan horse for homosexual activists’ political agenda.’”

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GRAND RAPIDS PRESS
Grand Rapids, Michigan
June 18, 2011

Michigan anti-bullying legislation advocates
disagree over language in stalled bill

by Charley Honey

Those concerned about bullying agree schools need policies to discourage it. What they can’t agree on is what those policies should say.

State legislation requiring public schools to have such policies has yet to be adopted in Lansing after 10 years of pushing by advocates. The State Board of Education in 2001 asked districts to adopt policies and issued a model policy in 2006. Michigan is one of only five states without such laws, Gov. Rick Snyder pointed out in urging passage of a bill.

“One of the reasons this bill’s been stalled for so long is we have adults saying ‘This is what we want,’ not ‘This is what our kids need,’” said Kevin Epling, co-director of Bully Police USA, whose son, Matt, committed suicide in 2002.

A bill calling itself “Matt’s Safe School Law” awaits a vote in the Senate. It requires public school districts to adopt anti-bullying policies and submit them to the state. It does not apply to private schools.

Epling calls it a “much reduced version” of the originally proposed Matt’s law and hopes it is strengthened. It does not include language, as does another proposed bill, that specifies a student’s real or perceived race, religion and sexual orientation in its definition of bullying.

The American Family Association has objected to that language as “a Trojan horse for homosexual activists’ political agenda.”
Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, the bill’s sponsor, says such “enumeration” language isn’t needed.

“I think a child shouldn’t be bullied, whether they be gay or obese or have red hair,” said Jones, whose district includes Barry and Allegan counties. “If we start having enumerations in there, we could be back every six months putting in a new classification.”

Religious schools keep pace

Local Christian and Catholic schools have their own policies but are keeping an eye on the state legislation.

“Our Student Dignity Policy has been adequate for us in the past, but with a new policy coming from the state, we should
probably take a look at that,” said Dave Faber, superintendent of Catholic schools.

The Catholic secondary schools’ policy prohibits sexual and racial harassment, including threats, name-calling and posting “harmful information on the Internet.”

“The Gospel doesn’t just call us to tolerance of one another, it calls us to love one another,” Faber said. “That’s what we’re bringing to students.”

Policy revision

The Grand Rapids Christian Schools board Monday is slated to approve revisions to its policy on bullying. The policy includes consequences but also ways to reconcile those who bully back into the school community, Superintendent Tom DeJonge said.

“We talk about how students are to be treated in love, whether they’re the guilty party or not,” DeJonge said, “and that, in Christ, we provide supports and resources for those that have been harmed as well as those doing the harming.

“It doesn’t mean there’s not punishment, but it’s also about rebuilding a community that’s been broken.”

http://www.mlive.com/living/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2011/06/michigan_anti-bullying_legisla.html
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GRAND RAPIDS PRESS — Anti-gay rights activist Gary Glenn poo-poos suggestion for Holland ballot issue

GRAND RAPIDS PRESS
Grand Rapids, Michigan
June 19, 2011

Polpourri

Anti-gay rights activist Gary Glenn poo-
poos suggestion for Holland ballot issue

After Holland City Council refused to add sexual orientation to the city’s anti-discrimination ordinances by a 5-4 vote last week, some suggested the question be put to Holland residents. Anti-gay rights activist Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan, said such a ballot issue would fare no better than same-sex marriage did in Holland during a 2004 statewide referendum.

“It will be soundly rejected … in a community that voted 64 percent in favor of the Marriage Protection Amendment,” Glenn said.

http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2011/06/polpourri_for_june_19_anti-gay.html
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GRAND RAPIDS PRESS — 'Pro-family' group aims to unseat Holland council members who support anti-discrimination vote

“’Given the serious threat these discriminatory gay rights ordinances have proven to pose to religious freedom in other communities, pro-family residents of Holland can’t afford the risk that a single council member might be replaced or pressured to change his vote and allow such a dangerous policy to become law,’ (Campaign for Michigan Families chairman Gary) Glenn said in a prepared statement. ‘To prevent that, our PAC will financially and otherwise assist candidates who file to run against the three council members this fall who tried to impose homosexual activists’ political agenda on city residents.’

Supporters of expanding the ordinance are planning to launch a petition drive to get the proposal on the ballot, but Glenn predicted any such proposal would fail, given that 64 percent of city voters voted in favor of the Marriage Protection Amendment when it was on the 2004 ballot. ‘Holland voters are not going to endorse a homosexual agenda,’ he said.”

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GRAND RAPIDS PRESS
Grand Rapids, Michigan
June 18, 2011

‘Pro-family’ group aims to unseat Holland council
members who support anti-discrimination vote

by Greg Chandler / The Grand Rapids Press

HOLLAND, Mich. – A statewide “pro-family” political action committee wants to target three Holland City Council members who voted in favor of expanding the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Campaign for Michigan Families, which is affiliated with the Michigan chapter of the American Family Association, hopes to support candidates to run against Mayor Pro Tem Bob Vande Vusse and Councilmen Jay Peters and David Hoekstra in re-election bids this fall.

The three were part of the minority in the council’s 5-4 vote Wednesday night that rejected expanding the anti-discrimination ordinance.

But Peters, who has been on the council since 2007, is the only candidate of the three currently facing a re-election challenge. He faces an August primary race that includes former Councilman Victor Oroczo and Planning Commissioner Jerry Tonini.

Vande Vusse and Hoekstra did not have any opponents file to run against them by the May 10 filing deadline. Any potential opponents would have to run as write-in candidates.

“It’s their right,” Vande Vusse said of the ouster effort. “I will stand on my record of 20 years (that I’ve been on the council). I trust the judgment of the people of Holland and the people of the Fourth Ward who have given me the opportunity to represent them for the past 20 years.”

The lack of challengers isn’t deterring campaign chairman Gary Glenn, who urged “pro-family” candidates to consider running against the three incumbents, saying it would offer funding support.
“Given the serious threat these discriminatory gay rights ordinances have proven to pose to religious freedom in other communities, pro-family residents of Holland can’t afford the risk that a single council member might be replaced or pressured to change his vote and allow such a dangerous policy to become law,” Glenn said in a prepared statement.

“To prevent that, our PAC will financially and otherwise assist candidates who file to run against the three council members this fall who tried to impose homosexual activists’ political agenda on city residents.”

The proposed ordinance change had included a provision exempting religious organizations, their educational programs, and institutions that address housing, employment, education and other services. That didn’t keep many opponents from stating their opposition on moral grounds. Glenn, however, says that provision was narrowly written and that the ordinance would prevent “individual citizens from exercising their religious freedom.”

Hoekstra has been a council member since 2003. Neither Peters nor Hoekstra could be reached for comment Saturday.

The fourth council member who voted in favor of expanding the ordinance, At-large Councilman Shawn Miller, is not running for election to the seat he was appointed to last month.

Supporters of expanding the ordinance are planning to launch a petition drive to get the proposal on the ballot, but Glenn predicted any such proposal would fail, given that 64 percent of city voters voted in favor of the Marriage Protection Amendment when it was on the 2004 ballot.

“Holland voters are not going to endorse a homosexual agenda,” he said.

The announcement of the statewide campaign comes a day after a group supporting expanding the anti-discrimination ordinance launched a Facebook page calling for a boycott of the city in protest of the council vote. As of Saturday afternoon, that group had close to 240 members.

http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2011/06/pro-family_group_aims_to_unsea.html
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WOOD RADIO — Pro-Family Group Gets Into Holland Gay Rights Fight

(The Holland ‘gay rights’ ordinance) was defeated by only one vote, a margin that Campaign For Michigan Families Chairman Gary Glenn said was ‘too close for comfort.’ He is targeting Holland City Council members David Hoekstra, Jay Peters and Robert Vande Vusse. He accused them of trying to ‘impose homosexual activists’ political agenda on (Holland) city residents.’ Glenn also said that gay rights ordinances are a threat to the religious freedom. ‘To prevent that, our PAC will financially…assist candidates who file to run against these three city council members,’ he said in a statement released Friday.”

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WOOD RADIO
Grand Rapids, Michigan
June 17, 2011

Pro-Family Group Gets Into Holland Gay Rights Fight

Campaign For Michigan Families Chairman Gary Glenn says this week’s
vote on a gay rights ordinance in Holland was too close for comfort.

by Rod Kackley, Paul Cicchini
WOOD Radio News Team

A statewide political action committee that backs candidates who support “traditional family values” is urging pro-family supporters in Holland to run against the three city council members, facing re-election in November, who voted in favor of a gay rights ordinance.

That proposal was defeated by only one vote, a margin that Campaign For Michigan Families Chairman Gary Glenn said was “too close for comfort.”

He is targeting Holland City Council members David Hoekstra, Jay Peters and Robert Vande Vusse. He accused them of trying to “impose a homosexual activists’ political agenda on (Holland) city residents.”

Glenn also said that gay rights ordinances are a threat to the religious freedom.

“To prevent that, our PAC will financially…assist candidates who file to run against these three city council members,” he said in a statement released Friday.

Dave Hoekstra, Holland’s 6th Ward Councilman,  told WOOD Radio he didn’t even know Glenn was coming after him, again.

Hoekstra says about a year ago, the two men exhanged e-mails.

“In which he pretty clearly indicated that if I didn’t vote in a particular way that I might face some political consequences,” said Hoekstra.

Hoekstra says his main concern was enhancing Holland as a welcoming community. He says any steps that have been achieved in realizing civil liberties and justice haven’t come easily.

“And we keep talking about, and we make statements about the fact that we as a people value justice and we just have to make sure that our walk is matching our talk,” said Hoekstra.

http://www.woodradio.com/cc-common/news/sections/newsarticle.html?feed=125494&article=8721802
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HOLLAND SENTINEL — Human rights resolution denied; ballot measure possible

“Even though the Holland City Council voted against a human rights resolution Wednesday, the issue could find its way to the November ballot. The details have not been worked out, but petitions are likely to be circulated looking for support of adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the city of Holland’s Human Relations and Fair Housing ordinances and equal employment opportunity policy. ‘I think we have to go for a referendum,’ said Bill Freeman, chaplain of Interfaith Congregation, who brought the issue to the Holland City Council more than a year ago. A split council shot down the request Wednesday 5-4 after more than four hours of comments from the public and many prepared statements from council members.”

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HOLLAND SENTINEL
Holland, Michigan
June 16, 2011

Human rights resolution denied,
ballot measure possible

By Annette Manwell

Holland, MI — Even though the Holland City Council voted against a human rights resolution Wednesday, the issue could find its way to the November ballot.

The details have not been worked out, but petitions are likely to be circulated looking for support of adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the city of Holland’s Human Relations and Fair Housing ordinances and equal employment opportunity policy.

“I think we have to go for a referendum,” said Bill Freeman, chaplain of Interfaith Congregation, who brought the issue to the Holland City Council more than a year ago.

A split council shot down the request Wednesday 5-4 after more than four hours of comments from the public and many prepared statements from council members. It was nearly midnight when the decision was made, but people passionate about the issue endured to hear the vote.

What was on the table Wednesday was only a resolution asking city attorneys to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the city’s human rights ordinances and policies, on which the council would then have to vote.

“The ballot measure was council’s idea,” said the Rev. Jennifer Adams from Grace Episcopal Church in Holland and a member of Holland is Ready, adding, “I think it would have a good shot.”

“It’s unfortunate,” Freeman said. “I don’t think you should ask the majority for the rights of the minority.”

Members of Holland is Ready, a group of concerned people working for rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people, are absorbing the council decision and have not considered what to do next, Adams said.

The mood outside council chambers after the meeting was disappointment and “surprised by the experience,” considering most of the comments to council were in favor of the resolution, she said.

“We were all just shocked that they didn’t let the process go through,” Freeman said of the mood after the vote. “To let it go through would have shown some respect to the Human Relations Commission that spent months studying the issues.”

Approving the resolution was not approving the ordinance amendment, he said.

“It’s not over, because the issues is not going away, the people aren’t going away,” Adams said.

The resolution brought attention from around the world. Council members said they received emails and letters from people in other countries as well as around the state and nation.

People who spoke Wednesday suggested Holland had the opportunity to make a strong statement about human rights. Freeman agreed, saying the vote would have been noticed around the country and a unanimous vote would have had “great impact.”

“I think Holland is better than the 5-4 vote,” he said.

Decisions made by a local government do have an effect, Adams said. “That’s why there is local government. It’s a critical dimension of long-term change.

“I think our council missed an opportunity.”

Supporters face many steps
to get ordinance on ballot

Launching a ballot initiative to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the city’s human rights ordinances is not a simple task.

First, proponents need to draft a proposed ordinance as well as specific language for the petition, Holland City Attorney Andy Mulder said. The city attorney’s office must decide whether the language fits required forms.

After language is approved, proponents need 1,310 signatures — 15 percent of Holland’s voter turnout in the last gubernatorial election.

The city clerk’s office would have 10 days to verify all the signatures.

Then, the city council would have 30 days to either adopt the proposed ordinance or put it on the ballot. (By the way, the city council isn’t allowed to initiate a ballot initiative.)

If all that is completed and submitted to the county before Aug. 16, the initiative can be on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Finally, if voters approve the ballot initiative, the city council cannot change it in any way for two years.

http://www.hollandsentinel.com/feature/x536831629/Human-rights-resolution-denied-ballot-measure-possible
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