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KZOO GAZETTE — Family group phones thousands on gender-identity vote

August 17, 2006

AFA-Michigan stands against homosexual, cross-dressing policy adopted by Kalamazoo County

Today’s Kalamazoo Gazette reports on the American Family Association of Michigan’s efforts this week to stop approval of a radical “gay rights” and cross-dressing policy by Kalamazoo County commissioners. Please read the story and editorial below, and please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to AFA-Michigan today, to ensure we have the resources to take action when traditional family values are under attack in your community.

It’s easy to DONATE online to AFA of Michigan.

Kalamazoo, Michigan
August 17, 2006

Family-rights group phones
thousands on gender-identity vote

by Gabrielle Russon

A family-rights group sent recorded messages Tuesday to thousands of area residents, urging them to call two Kalamazoo County commissioners about a proposal to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the county’s nondiscrimination policy.

Board of Commissioners Chairman Bob Brink and Joe VanBruggen, the only two Republicans who voted in favor of the proposal that passed 9-8 on Tuesday, were singled out by the American Family Association of Michigan because they were considered swing votes, said Gary Glenn, the group’s president.

The American Family Association of Michigan sent recorded messages to 5,200 households of registered voters in the 61st State House District, which covers Portage, Kalamazoo Township and four townships to the west of Kalamazoo.

Glenn said the group targeted registered voters in the 61st District because Brink is considering a run for the House seat in 2008 once Rep. Jack Hoogendyk, R-Texas Township, is forced out by term limits.

Brink called it a “scare tactic” and said only 35 to 40 people left messages on his answering machine Tuesday and Wednesday after he already had cast his vote.

Another 1,000 calls were made in Galesburg, which is in VanBruggen’s district, Glenn said.

VanBruggen said he only received about 20 phone calls.

“Most of them were outside my own district,” Brink said. Some were “derogatory,” he said, but about half of the messages left were positive or supportive.

The American Family Association of Michigan orchestrated the phone calls after learning that Brink was likely to vote for the proposal, Glenn said.

The group disapproved of the county’s additions to the nondiscrimination list because, Glenn argued, sexual orientation and gender identity should not be considered “unchangeable characteristics” such as race, age and sex.

The policy addition also could discriminate against people who are opposed to sharing bathrooms with those who dress as the opposite sex, he said.

Two years ago, when faced with a similar decision, Brink voted against the proposal.

Brink said he changed his vote now because he felt the timing was right, and the county’s nondiscrimination list needed to add language specifically including sexual orientation and gender identity.

“It has everything to do with equality and fairness,” Brink said. “We need to make sure we don’t discriminate against any people. If we have to put that language in there, then that’s what we have to do.”

Kalamazoo, Michigan
August 17, 2006


Courage in the face of automated phone calls

After what happened to a couple of Kalamazoo County commissioners this week, it’s a wonder any Republican lawmakers have the nerve to support equal rights for homosexuals.

On Tuesday, the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners voted 9-8 to include “a person’s political affiliation, sexual orientation or gender identity” in the county’s non-discrimination policy.

Two Republicans — board Chairman Bob Brink and Commissioner Joe VanBruggen — joined Democratic commissioners to pass the policy change.

The policy change is long overdue. It failed two years ago, along partisan lines.

Before Tuesday night’s meeting, 5,000 residents in Brink’s District 12 in Oshtemo Township and 1,000 in VanBruggen’s District 15 in Comstock Township and the city of Galesburg started getting automated phone calls with a recorded message from the American Family Association (of Michigan), telling them to call Brink and VanBruggen to urge them to vote against it. The recording included the county board’s telephone number, which was swamped with calls Tuesday afternoon.

A transcript of the message, included with an AFA(-Michigan) press release, said the message warned:

“This policy, pushed by homosexual activist groups, would literally require the county to allow a male employee to come to work wearing a dress, and to use the women’s rest room.

“And this same policy has been used in other counties to discriminate against individuals and groups who believe homosexual behavior is wrong.”

Further, the phone message warned, Brink is interested in running for the state Legislature in 2008, when state Rep. Jack Hoogendyk, R-Texas Township, if re-elected in November, would be forced by term limits to step down.

So it took considerable fortitude for Brink and VanBruggen to vote in favor of the non-discrimination policy.

The American Family Association (of Michigan) is the same organization that, through its Campaign for Michigan Families political action committee, nearly derailed state Rep. Lorence Wenke’s re-election two years ago after his vote to not put an anti-gay marriage question on the state ballot. It attempted to do so again in this year’s Republican primary, but with less success.

The organization also campaigned against U.S. Rep. Joe Schwarz, a moderate Republican who lost his re-election bid last week.

So we know that the AFA has a long memory and is more than willing to try to punish elected officials for years after a vote the organization doesn’t approve of.

That does put a target on Brink’s back if he decides to run for the 61st House District seat in two years.

Sometimes, it isn’t easy to do the right thing when one knows that the penalty might be the end of a political career.

Bob Brink and Joe VanBruggen showed a lot of courage Tuesday night.

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