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 A month later the measure was rescinded after a local chapter of the American Family Association (AFA) submitted sufficient signatures to suspend the law until commissioners vote to repeal it or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 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. 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.