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HOLLAND SENTINEL — Is Holland ready? City commission tackles gay rights ordinance tonight

October 21, 2010
“American Family Association of Michigan President Gary Glenn said the (proposed homosexual and cross-dressing ‘rights’ ordinance) was ‘radically out of step with the values of the people of Holland.’ He said 64 percent of voters in the Holland area had voted to approve the Marriage Protection Amendment in 2004, and that an anti-discrimination ordinance could be easily overturned by a public referendum.”

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HOLLAND SENTINEL
Holland, Michigan
October 21, 2010

Is Holland ready? City commission
tackles Gay Rights Ordinance tonight

By Peter Daining and Stephen Kloosterman

HOLLAND, Mi. — Dustin Lance Black has his fingers crossed.

The Academy Award-winning screenwriter has his eye on Holland this week, with city officials revisiting the idea of an anti-discrimination ordinance that would protect gay residents from housing or job discrimination.

It’s a particularly poignant topic, Black says, considering the high number of gay teens who have committed suicide in recent months.

“I’m very happy to hear Holland is having those conversations,” Black said. “It’s become clear that people listen to the messages of their communities, which way too often are saying gay and lesbian people are somehow second class or not worthy of protection.”

Holland’s Human Relations Commission tackles the thorny issue at 6 p.m. today at City Hall. It’s unclear yet if the panel will vote on whether to add protections for residents based on their sexual orientation; they have been studying the issue during the summer.

“I couldn’t say for sure whether it will be tomorrow or next month,” said Community/Human Relations coordinator Al Serrano. “But it’s probably somewhere in that time period.”

One Holland gay business owner, who asked to remain anonymous, has first-hand experience with gay discrimination in Holland — while buying a home.

He, and his partner, were packing to move to Holland to care for an ill family member; the moving van was booked, the closing date set. Just three days away from the closing date, they hit a bump in the road.

The condominium board did not want to grant permission for them to move in. The problem? The couple’s sexual orientation. The partners flew in to meet with the board.

“You’re saying we can’t live here because you don’t like gays?” he recalled saying. “Why can’t you just live somewhere else?” the condo board member replied.

The couple’s lawyer explained it is perfectly legal in Holland to deny housing to gay couples.

“Everyone I’ve told has been rather shocked to discover it’s completely legal to deny a person a home based on homosexuality,” he said. “I think it’s extremely important that this last bastion of civil rights be forged.”

Interfaith Congregation Chaplain Bill Freeman asked Holland City Council to consider an anti-discrimination ordinance this summer to guard against housing, education, job and other discriminations based on sexual orientation.

“This isn’t a question about what’s in the Bible, this is a question about what’s in the Constitution, and the Constitution talks about equal rights for all — and that’s what we’re talking about.”

American Family Association of Michigan President Gary Glenn said the suggestion was “radically out of step with the values of the people of Holland.” He said 64 percent of voters in the Holland area had voted to approve the Marriage Protection Amendment in 2004, and that an anti-discrimination ordinance could be easily overturned by a public referendum.

Since this summer, the Human Relations Committee has been gathering information and having discussions in order to decide on a recommendation to City Council. Freeman is optimistic about today’s meeting.

“This could be one of the big steps,” Freeman said.

Gay rights became a hot button issue in Holland when Hope College banned filmmaker Black from hosting a discussion of his Academy Award-winning film at a campus sexuality forum last fall.

Eventually, Hope is Ready hosted Black off-campus at the Park Theatre for a discussion and screening of his film, “Milk,” a biopic of Harvey Milk, the first gay politician elected to public office in the U.S.

“Some people don’t understand why it’s important,” Black said. “It’s so that gay and lesbian people — and there are plenty of gay and lesbian people in Holland. I met many of them — can feel free to live authentically as who they are with their self esteems intact.”
http://www.hollandsentinel.com/feature/x2030533328/Is-Holland-ready-City-Council-tackles-Gay-Rights-Ordinance-tonight
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