In the wake of an election cycle that
saw passage of four statewide anti-gay measures, conservative groups
in cities large and small appear to be targeting hard-won gay rights
at the local level for repeal.
On November 4, voters in three states –
California, Arizona and Florida – approved constitutional
amendments banning gay marriage. And in Arkansas, a new law forbids
gay couples from fostering or adopting a child.
But as the dust settles on those state
contests, conservatives have turned their attention to the repeal of
pro-gay legislation at the local level.
On December 1, city leaders in
Kalamazoo voted in favor of protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and
transgender people from discrimination in the areas of housing,
public accommodations and employment. The Michigan city, population
77,000, joined 15 other cities in the state which have adopted
It now appears the pro-gay legislation,
unanimously approved by city commissioners, will be subject to a vote
by the people, the result of a local petition drive spearheaded by
the state chapter of the American Family Association, an
ultra-conservative group responsible for several nationwide boycotts
against brands deemed too gay friendly, McDonald's, Campbell's and
The group submitted 1,864 signatures on
December 31, nearly 600 more than required to suspend the law until
commissioners vote to repeal it or voters decide its future.
It appears unlikely that lawmakers are
about to vote against their own legislation, leaving it up to voters
to decide its fate. Opponents of the ordinance cited moral and
religious objections to the ordinance. City Attorney Clyde Robinson
told the Kalamazoo Gazette that the vote will most probably be
scheduled for early May.
An earlier vote is scheduled in
Gainesville, Florida, where opponents to the addition of a gender
identity clause to the city's anti-discrimination law collected more
than 6,000 signatures to repeal both gender identity and sexual
orientation as protected classes from discrimination in the city.
A citywide vote is scheduled for March
Citizens for Good Public Policy argued
that adding gender identity as a protected class would allow men to
use women's restrooms, giving sexual predators easy access to
Gainesville passed legislation
protecting gays, lesbians and bisexuals from discrimination in
housing, employment, public accommodations and credit in 1998. And
added transgender people to that list last January.
And voters in Cleveland, Ohio may be
asked to settle a similar fight over a newly-passed gay domestic
Monday was the deadline to submit about
11,000 signatures to stop the registry from taking effect. It now
appears that effort has failed and the registry will become law, but
its life may be short.
United Pastors in Mission, a group of
mostly black ministers led by president Rev. C. Jay Matthews of the
Mount Sinai Baptist Church and director Rev. Marvin McMickle of
Antioch Baptist Church, announced last week that it will pursue an
“ordinance by initiative” option that allows the group to submit
legislation that would repeal the registry directly to city leaders.
But it seems unlikely the city council would vote to repeal their own
measure; in that case, the group could put the issue on the ballot.
Cleveland's domestic partner registry
allows gay and straight couples to seek recognition of their union
from the city. Ohio passed one of the toughest gay marriage bans in
the country four years ago. To ensure that the registry does not run
afoul of the state's prohibition it lacks any force of law and
guarantees no protections whatsoever. Any benefits given to couples
would be strictly voluntary.
Openly gay Councilman Joe Santiago who
backed the creation of the registry questioned the resolve of the
ministers, saying he was uncertain how well organized the group was.
“There are activists out there that
are just vehemently against such measures,” Santiago told On Top
Magazine. “They have a perception that this is part of a gay
agenda, the start of a process to allow for gay marriage. And that's
just not true. ... The registry benefits both gay and straight
The ministers say they oppose the
registry on religious grounds.
“That lifestyle goes against God,”
Matthews told a Plain Dealer reporter.