A Kalamazoo, Michigan city ordinance
that protects gay men and lesbians from discrimination remains in
political limbo nearly four months after its passage, reports the
City leaders unanimously passed the
ordinance that makes it illegal to discriminate based on sexual
orientation or gender identity in the areas of housing, public
accommodations and employment on December 1, 2008. A month later the
measure was rescinded after a local chapter of the American Family
Association (AFA) submitted sufficient signatures to suspend the law
until commissioners vote to repeal it or voters decide its future.
The AFA is best known for its divisive
anti-gay postures and nationwide boycotts against brands they deem
too gay friendly, McDonald's, Campbell's and Pepsi included.
After voting to withdraw the
legislation, city commissioners vowed to return with a retooled
On Monday, over 200 people showed up at
a subcommittee hearing studying the issue to voice their concerns.
And while the original ordinance exempted churches and renters of a
residence where they live, opponents roundly denounced it as an
attempt to discriminate against religious groups.
Mary Balkema, who spoke on behalf of
Kalamazoo Citizens Voting No to Special Rights Discrimination, said
the measure would “victimize” religious groups.
“No religious person should be
indicted for living out his protected religious convictions.”
“I think the amendment itself is
discriminatory. I think it violates constitutionally guaranteed
rights – freedom of speech and the free exercise of religion. I
think it violates the privacy rights and safety of women and
children,” Balkema said.
“Nothing is more central to our
values and our faith as freedom and justice for all,” Rev. Matthew
Laney said in supporting the ordinance.
The hearing being held at a public
library was relocated to City Hall when the library closed at 9PM.
The three-member subcommittee had allocated only two hours for the
public forum, which lasted till 11PM. Further comments are being
accepted until March 26 by mail, e-mail or voice mail.
City leaders say they might take up the
issue soon after the debate period is over.