Kicking A Lion

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Petitions target rescinding new ordinance banning discrimination against gays, lesbians and transgender individuals

KALAMAZOO — Petitions aimed at rescinding a new city ordinance banning discrimination against gays, lesbians and transgender individuals in housing, public accommodations and employment began circulating in Kalamazoo churches last weekend.

Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan, said Thursday that his organization is supporting the efforts of unnamed local activists toward a 2009 ballot measure to rescind the ordinance.

City officials say circulators now have until Dec. 31 to collect at least 1,300 valid signatures from registered voters living in Kalamazoo. If successful, it would require the Kalamazoo City Commission to place the referendum on a ballot, letting city voters decide if the ordinance will stand. In addition, the city charter requires that provisions of the new ordinance be suspended until electors decide.

At issue is a revised and expanded city anti-discrimination ordinance that makes it a civil infraction to discriminate in Kalamazoo against gays, lesbians and transgender citizens in housing, public accommodations and employment. For example, a landlord could not refuse to rent an apartment to a gay or lesbian couple based solely on their sexual orientation.

In addition, contractors seeking to do business with the city must show proof they have a policy prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The measure, initiated by the Kalamazoo Alliance for Equality, was adopted 7-0 by the City Commission on Dec. 1 and faced no expressed public opposition.

Ordinance provisions became effective today and violations are punishable by a fine of up to $500, plus costs.

Glenn confirmed that AFAM has a supporting role in the local petition drive. But he declined to name local organizers, saying “determining who their spokesman is is up to them.”

“There is a petition being circulated to allow the citizens of Kalamazoo to make the decision on this ordinance, not the politicians,” Glenn said.

“Experience proves that in other jurisdictions, ordinances like this have been used to discriminate against and penalize people who believe homosexual behavior is wrong.”
Terry Kuseske, a spokesman for KAFE, said his organization “was hoping we would be able to avoid some kind of ballot.”

“We’ve built a lot of relationships with organizations already to support this ordinance,” Kuseske said. “We tried to craft something that was more Kalamazoo.”

According to City Attorney Clyde Robinson, the city charter gives citizens 20 days from the effective date of a new ordinance to file petitions challenging it. Those petitions must contain signatures equal to 15 percent of the valid ballots cast in the last commission election.

Glenn said organizers’ goal is to collect 2,500 to 3,000 signatures.

If petitioners are successful, Robinson said the charter requires the City Commission to either rescind its ordinance adoption or put the measure on the ballot for voters to decide. A regular election date could come as early as May.

According to Glenn, outcomes have been mixed in other Michigan cities that have had referendum elections on similar gay-rights measures.

Most recently, he said Hamtramck voters defeated an ordinance there by a 55- to 45-percent margin Nov. 6. Glenn said a combination of Catholic and Muslim churches rallied major opposition to Hamtramck’s gay-rights ordinance.

Glenn declined to identify where petitions are available for persons wishing to sign or churches that are participating in circulating them.

Kalamazoo voters have supported two previous gay-rights election issues. In 2001, city voters rejected a proposal which would have blocked the passage of municipal laws to protect gay rights and ban the city’s offer of same-sex benefits to employees.

And in 2004, while voters statewide passed a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in Michigan, the majority of Kalamazoo voters opposed it.

Contact Kathy Jessup at or 388-8590.


Written by kickingalion

December 12, 2008 at 11:04 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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