Opponents of gay rights in Kalamazoo,
Michigan have submitted a petition to force a vote to repeal a gay
protections ordinance passed by city leaders in June, the Kalamazoo
The city ordinance makes it illegal to
discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity
(transgender protections) in the areas of housing, public
accommodations and employment.
Lawmakers have unanimously approved the
bill twice. Last January leaders were forced to rescind a similar
measure after a local chapter of the American Family Association
(AFA) submitted sufficient signatures to suspend the law until
commissioners voted to repeal it or voters decided its future.
The group Kalamazoo Citizens Voting No
to Special Rights say they submitted 2,088 signatures on Wednesday,
60% more than the 1,273 valid voter signatures needed to qualify for
the ballot box, leaving little doubt opponents have managed to forced
a vote on the issue.
“As soon as I verify or validate the
petitions, from that moment … the ordinance is suspended,”
Kalamazoo City Clerk Scott Borling told the paper.
City leaders wrestled for months with
the legislation before approving the measure. They listened to often
heated testimony from hundreds of citizens during public hearings.
Despite the law's exemptions for
churches, opponents roundly denounced it as an attempt to
discriminate against religious groups.
“No religious person should be
indicted for living out his protected religious convictions,” Mary
Balkema, of the Kalamazoo Citizens Voting No to Special Rights
Discrimination, said in March.
“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,” she added.
Fifteen Michigan municipalities
currently ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.