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HOLLAND SENTINEL — Sexual orientation equal rights amendment fails on split vote in Holland

June 16, 2011
“Those opposed cited religious reasons, the concern that the ordinance will take away rights of property and business owners, that homosexuality is immoral or that it is not a protected class and maintained that homosexuality is a choice, not a trait a person is born with like being black, Hispanic or a woman.”

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HOLLAND SENTINEL
Holland, Michigan
June 16, 2011

Sexual orientation equal rights amendment
fails on split vote in Holland

By ANNETTE MANWELL

Holland, MI — “The motion fails, five to four.”

The statement by Holland’s Acting Deputy City Clerk Anna Perales was followed by sighs and groans of people in the crowded chambers of the Holland City Council. A recommendation from the city’s Human Relations Commission to include sexual orientation and gender identity in the city’s human rights ordinances failed to gain the support needed to become an amendment.

After hours of resident and council comments, the vote was 5-4. No votes came from Mayor Kurt Dykstra, Todd Whiteman, Nancy De Boer, Myron Trethewey, and Brian Burch. Yes votes came from Jay Peters, Dave Hoekstra, Shawn Miller and Bob VandeVusse.

Many members of council spoke from prepared statements. Burch and Trethewey were adamant that a vote from nine people was not going to change the attitudes and opinions of the people living in the city and that a vote of the people would make a stronger statement.

Some who spoke during the public comment portion of Wednesday’s city council meeting suggested that the council would be making a strong statement of acceptance if it passed the resolution.

In the time he’s been council he has not been asked to enact a law in order to “make a statement,” Dykstra said.

Bill Freeman, chaplain of Interfaith Congregation, who first asked for the inclusion of the statements more than a year ago, said he would start a drive to get the issue on the ballot.

For more than two and a half hours people opposed and supportive of adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the city of Holland’s civil rights ordinances and policies spoke to the City Council.

Some were teary-eyed. Some spoke louder than others. Many all but begged the city council to stop the flight of young people from the city.

Family members of people who are gay told the council that their loved ones left because Holland is not a welcoming community.

“Holland is not an accepting community,” said Holland resident Greg Lamb. “It’s not a progressive community.”

Lamb said his daughter came home from a walk in Centennial Park one day after someone from a car driving down River Avenue called her “dyke.” She left because she’s not accepted here, he said.

Several people said it’s not the fact that a family member is gay that has torn their family apart — it’s the fact that loved one left because Holland is not accepting.

“Now I’m lucky if I see (my sister) a few times a year,” Jamie Coon, of Hamilton said.

“It’s not like passing this thing is going to increase the percentage of gay people in Holland,” Lamb said.

Only a few people spoke up and said, “I am gay.” But many people said “my son,” “my daughter,” “my friends,” “my brother” or “my sister is gay.”

Still others tried to reason with the council on economics and said property values will go up if people feel welcome in the community and choose to stay and live and spend money in the city.

Those opposed cited religious reasons, the concern that the ordinance will take away rights of property and business owners, that homosexuality is immoral or that it is not a protected class and maintained that homosexuality is a choice, not a trait a person is born with like being black, Hispanic or a woman.

Barbara Laman Coon countered the argument of landlords losing rights with “I don’t think that discrimination should be anyone’s right.”

http://www.hollandsentinel.com/feature/x536828333/Long-public-forum-on-equal-rights-delays-decision
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