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GRAND RAPIDS PRESS — Holland votes against adding sexual orientation to anti-discrimination policies

June 16, 2011
Praise the Lord!

“Rev. Ralph Houston, Pastor of Immanuel Reformed Church in Fennville, was against putting anti-gay bias in city ordinances. ‘This is a way to get acceptance to immoral acts by approval through law,’ said Houston, who claimed studies showed homosexuality was a lifestyle choice that could be cured by treatment. …Holland resident Laura Anderson said she felt she was being discriminated against by the intent of the ordinance. ‘It takes away my rights. By its wording, this resolution gives heavier weight to gay rights over my rights and I’m offended by it,’ Anderson said.”

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GRAND RAPIDS PRESS
Grand Rapids, Michigan
June 16, 2011

Holland votes against adding sexual
orientation to anti-discrimination policies

by Myron Kukla, The Grand Rapids Press

HOLLAND — By a one-vote margin after a long and sometimes emotional meeting, Holland City Council on Wednesday vetoed adding sexual orientation to its anti-discrimination ordinances covering housing and jobs.

“I feel it was the wrong thing to do. I believe they just sent a message to the business world that Holland is not an inclusive community that welcomes diversity,” said Ken Freestone, a Holland businessman, who listened to more than five hours of comment and council discussion before the group’s 5-4 vote.

Voting against the change were Mayor Kurt Dykstra and council members Brian Burch, Nancy DeBoer, Mike Tretheway and Todd Whiteman.
In favor of the change were council members David Hoekstra, Jay Peters, Robert Vande Vusse and Shawn Miller.
DeBoer and Whiteman said they would prefer to see a city-wide vote on adding sexual orientation to the list of groups covered in the anti-discrimination ordinances.

Freestone was skeptical such a vote would ever happen. An audible sigh of resignation came from the audience when the final vote was heard. An overflow crowd of 250 crammed the City Council chambers and its hallways. More than 60 people spoke to the issue, with their allegiances fairly evenly split. “I have gay friends and always have had gay friends. They provide the spice of life. This is not a choice issue as has been suggested tonight. It’s a DNA thing,” said Second Ward Councilman Jay Peters.

Some critics of the added language claimed outside influences were pushing a “gay agenda” in Holland, while others countered that support for the proposal came from locals, business owners and “residents being discriminated against” who favored the change.

Others took a more personal view.

Jamie Coon said her sister, Coco Lam, left Holland and moved to Oregon because of discrimination she received for being a lesbian.
“She moved away to live in peace with her partner and two children,” said Coon, 19, a Holland High School graduate and Central Michigan University student. “If you approve this anti-discrimination ordinance (for sexual orientation), it won’t bring my sister back, but it may keep someone else’s sister from leaving.”

The proposal would have added sexual orientation to Holland’s fair housing ordinance and Equal Opportunity policy. They already cover discrimination based on gender, race, creed, age and disabilities.

Of those who spoke out on the issue, nearly 20 percent were area ministers. Rev. Ralph Houston, Pastor of Immanuel Reformed Church in Fennville, was against putting anti-gay bias in city ordinances. “This is a way to get acceptance to immoral acts by approval through law,” said Houston, who claimed studies showed homosexuality was a lifestyle choice that could be cured by treatment.

Other area church leaders supported the proposed change.

“Be sure you consider this as a human rights issue, not a religious issue. This is not a matter of morality,” said the Rev. Linda Knieriemen, minister of the First Presbyterian of Holland. Rev. Larry Schuyler of the Holland Classis of the Reformed Church in America said the position of the church is that “the denial of human and civil rights based on sexual identity is inconsistent with reformed theology.”

But Holland resident Laura Anderson said she felt she was being discriminated against by the intent of the ordinance. “It takes away my rights. By its wording, this resolution gives heavier weight to gay rights over my rights and I’m offended by it,” Anderson said.

Several speakers said what city council was doing was “encouraging homosexual lifestyles,” while others noted that “the resolution will not force churches to perform same-sex marriages.”

City Human Relations Coordinator Al Serrano said the Human Relations Commission studied the recommendation for a year and made the recommendation in part on a Fair Housing study found that discrimination against same-sex partners increased by nearly 30 percent in communities without discrimination ordinances.

Business owner Dean Whittaker said the council should consider what its decision will mean economically.

“We want to attract and keep diverse talent to our community and companies and a community suffers when we force people to leave,” said Whittaker.

http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2011/06/holland_votes_against_adding_s.html
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