Kalamazoo: Gay Rights Protection Under Threat Take Action!

On Monday December 1st, 2008, the city of Kalamazoo, Michigan, went beyond existing state, and even federal laws, to make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in the housing and employment sectors, but that gay rights ordinance is now under threat. Find out how you can help below!

The LGBT anti-discrimination ordinance was passed by the The Kalamazoo City Commission by 7 – 0 with no opposition. But weeks later a petition from some 1,400 residents, residents that didn’t bother to turn up to the original meeting, forced the commission to freeze the equal protections ordinance in order to salvage it, with either the option of fully repealing the law or taking it to a referendum. The citizens of Kalamazoo now have until March 26th to make their voices heard. To find out how you can help, read on.

What Did The Gay Rights Ordinance Mandate?

The 10 page Kalamazoo ordinance made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexuality or gender identity, adding to the categories already protected such as race, religion and gender, thus protecting LGBT citizens from being discriminated against in the housing and employment sectors.

Further to this, contractors who wish to carry out business within Kalamazoo would now have to submit proof of their adherence to the gay rights ordinance and demonstrate that they have a policy in place which protects LGBT people from discrimination.

Penalty for this civil infraction would be a fine of no more than $500.00.

What The Gay Rights Ordinance Does Not Do

At a meeting on March 9th, Kalamazoo citizens had an opportunity to debate the frozen gay rights ordinance. Opponents decried the measure, saying that it transcended “equal rights” and had moved into the realm of “special rights” for LGBT people.

They, along with the notorious American Family Association, contended that it would, in fact, discriminate against people who believed that homosexuality is wrong. Mary Balkema, who was a former city commissioner, now a treasurer, and one of the main driving forces behind the petition, gave a statement saying the ordinance would “victimize” people with religious beliefs:

“In order for these special rights to be accorded to a certain group, rights must be taken away from other groups who have defined rights under the law and that is discriminatory.”

This is false. The anti-discrimination ordinance gives exemption to churches and religious organizations, and expressly says, “It is also permissible for a religious organization or institution to restrict employment opportunities, housing facilities, or accommodations that are operated as a direct part of religious activities to persons who are members of or who conform to the moral tenets of that religious institution or organization.”

The right to freedom of speech for the religious is upheld, and they can refuse on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment and housing directly linked to the church. One might argue that it is the moral objectors that have “special rights” in this case, but that is an argument for another day.

You can read the full Kalamazoo City anti-discriminatory gay rights ordinance for yourself here.

What You Can Do To Ensure The Gay Rights Ordinance Goes To A Vote

Citizens of Kalamazoo have until Thursday 26th of March to make their opinions felt and their voices heard. This can be done in the following way:

Telephone: Call 552-6089. – A temporary hotline for the Gay Rights ordinance issue

Send comments to questions@kalamazoocity.org.

U.S. Mail:  Kalamazoo City Commission, 241 W. South St., Kalamazoo, MI 49007.

But, I urge all of you who care about LGBT rights, regardless of where you make your home, to email your thoughts and support for what the Kalamazoo City Commission did in introducing the ordinance, asking them to please take the measure to a referendum and to not retire the anti-discrimination ordinance completely.

This was too big a step forward to go back now. It’s within your power to make sure the progress continues. Will you help?

Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution license, with thanks to Trekguy2005.


Alice B.
Alice B8 years ago

SAME old same old - as one of the "B's" [pun intended!] in LGBT, all I can say is that sh** floats and this anti-gay maneuver is just the same old sh**. We LGBT's are the "wedge" target that is used by fascist-power types to strip rights away that straight folks take for granted - then, the 'bad guys' come after the rest of you guys. So it's in every thinking person's interest to FIGHT against these anti-LGBT measure: they're all about REPRESSION OF EVERYBODY.

Rhonda Maness
Rhonda Maness8 years ago

Using the word discrimination in order to continue to discriminate against a group is not only borderline redundant, it is also a loophole to intensify discrimination. People should't use religion as a tool of convenience. Religion should proclaim God's love and openess. It should never be used as a weapon against people because God is loving and receiving. He is the light that causes us to see,not a shadow that blinds us.

Glenna Jones-kachtik
Glenna Kachtik8 years ago

It is always funny to me that a right they have - that someone else wants - makes it a "special" right. The straight population has many rights. If GLBTQ people want the same right - all of a sudden the phrase "they want special rights" comes out. Then they trot out the discrimination against religion idea. This is America. The constitution does not (or at least I don't think it does) say that only the religious are protected - does it??? No, I thought it said all people - Straight, GLBTQ, religious, atheist, agnostic, buddhist, hindu,catholic, jewish,white, black, hispanic, rich, poor and in between....well, you get the idea -EVERYONE. That means we are all supposed to be equal!
Claiming that discrimination against religious people is getting pretty old in my book.

Eva S.
Eva S8 years ago

I think the wording of the ordinance is what is being objected to. People are trying to make sure that in helping the LGBT cause it does not endanger someone who wants to maintain the right to not agree with that lifestyle. Discrimination happens against all kinds of people daily.

paul r.
paul r8 years ago

Anti discrimination means just that - it doesn't mean a few people should be allowed to discriminate and the majority not - stop this watering down otherwise it makes the law into an ass - everyone can ignore.