KALAMAZOO- Less than one month after the City of Kalamazoo Commission voted 7-0 to adopt an expanded human rights ordinance that makes it illegal to use sexual orientation to discriminate in housing, public accomodations and employment, petitions were filed Dec. 31 to repeal it.
City Clerk Scott Borling said that the circulators of the petition had filed over 1,600 signatures. If at least 1,273 of them are valid city registered voters, it will cause the new ordinance to be suspended immediately.
The city charter states that valid referendum petitions require the commissioners to take up the challenge at the next regular meeting which will be held on Jan. 26. They will either repeal the ordinance or place it on a ballot for city voters to decide. The certification process began Friday and the outcome should be known sometime this week.
The American Family Association of Michigan, led by Gary Glenn, and Kalamazoo County Treasurer Mary Balkema, a former City Commissioner, submitted the petitions. Glenn has been quoted in local press claiming that the new ordinance would force some people to base decisions that run counter to their religious convictions, as well as possibly violate the privacy of women and children.
Glenn has led every challenge across the state in the past decade to defeat city ordinances that include sexual orientation and gender identity. A circulated flyer of talking points stated, "This ordinance violates the First Amendment rights of religion and free speech of those who oppose cross-dressing and homosexual behavior."
Glenn has used scare tactics in other ballot initiatives. For example, the title of one of the petition circulator scripts reads, "IS THERE A MAN IN YOUR DAUGHTER'S BATHROOM?"
Terry Kuseske of Kalamazoo Alliance for Equality, spent 18 months working with the City Commission to pass the new ordinance. Kuseske pointed out that the provision is needed to protect LGBT citizens from being discriminated against.
Kalamazoo currently joins 16 other Michigan cities in making it a municipal civil infraction to discriminate against the LGBT community.
KAFE leaders are asking for fair minded citizens in the city and across the state to stay informed and get involved. Their next meeting will take place Jan. 6 at 7 p.m. at the Arcus Depot. More information can be found at http://www.kalamazooalliance.org.