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WOOD-TV — New Kzoo personnel policy to address sexual orientation

August 16, 2006

WOOD-TV Channel 8
Grand Rapids, Michigan
August 15, 2006

New Kzoo personnel policy to address sexual orientation
KALAMAZOO — The County Commission in Kalamazoo is voting on an issue affecting the rights of gay and lesbian county employees.

Members of the community and commissioners are split down the middle. But in the end the Commission voted in favor of changing its personnel policy to address the issue of sexual orientation.

In matters involving employment, promotion, wages and discipline, the Kalamazoo County Personnel policy will now include language prohibiting discrimination against anyone because of that person’s political affiliation, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Commissioner David Buskirk proposed the policy change and said it is long overdue. “It’s also time that we support our employees. Two years ago I watched a young lady who was a gay employee give her 25 year pin back in tears and that’s not right. That’s not supporting our employees. That’s discriminatory,” said Kalamazoo County Commissioner David Buskirk.

Opponents of the policy change argued that the language supports a lifestyle that is morally wrong and would make the County vulnerable to uphold larger issues such as paying for sex change operations for employees and allowing trans-gender individuals the option to use restrooms of the opposite biological sex.

“We’re going to have to deal with men dressed in women’s clothing going in women’s bathrooms watching us and our young girls,” said opponent Barbra Anderson.

Supporters of the language change said the old policy as written prevented the County from receiving much needed funds from organizations with non-discrimination policy standards and was flat out discriminatory against members of the gay and lesbian community.

“I interviewed before all of you to be a member of one of your boards. It would hurt me and make me feel badly and I would have second thoughts about serving on that board if you thought less of me as a human being because of the fact that I am gay,” said Terry Kuseske, a supporter of the changes.

Opinions, analogies and emotions ran high on both sides but in the end the County Commission voted in favor of adding the new language to the policy by a margin of 9 to 8.
Some opponents were upset that the new policy language did not address discrimination against veterans.

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