After the city of Kalamazoo, Michigan
was forced to drop a gay protections ordinance, city leaders are
preparing to reintroduce a new law – possibly with the same wording
– setting the stage for a second round of fighting.
City leaders unanimously passed the
ordinance that makes it illegal to discriminate based on sexual
orientation or gender identity (transgender protections) 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A month later the measure was rescinded after a local chapter of the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.
Debate has been heated at subcommittee
meetings on the issue. At a March meeting, over 200 people arrived
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
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.
Mlive.com is reporting that
Commissioner Don Cooney believes the ordinance might be re-adopted by
late June with very similar language to the original 2008 law.
Wording opponents have already said they cannot abide.
A new subcommittee meeting on the issue
is scheduled for next Wednesday at city hall.