By Jeremy Martin
A group calling itself “Until Love Is =” has been making a social networking stir in West Michigan. Armed with a Facebook following of more than 2,400 people, the group founded by Erin Wilson of Grand Rapids is attempting to sway Holland area business to take a stand against inequality by showing their support for the LGBT community.
The group was created in opposition to the Holland City Council’s June 15 decision to not amend the current anti-discrimination ordinances. The purposed amendment, brought forth by the Holland Human Relations Commission and struck down by a 5-4 vote, would have added the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the current ordinances governing housing and hiring.
Until Love Is = is also calling for a citywide boycott of business that do not support the amendment. A message on the group’s Facebook page states: “We hope Holland businesses (will) take a strong and immediate stance in opposing that exclusion from protection. We’ll promote patronage of any business that formally and openly opposes that exclusion.”
Wilson hopes this piece of digital civil disobedience opens enough eyes to force the city council to reverse their decision on the proposed amendment.
“We hope to accomplish a re-vote in Holland, and the addition of protections for sexual orientation and gender identity, bottom line. From there – if and when – the possibilities would compound exponentially. If we can do this – this one simple thing, constructively and positively – then the sky’s the limit,” Wilson said.
Steve Depolo, a member of the group, doesn’t necessarily believe that boycotting businesses alone is enough. In a message posted on the group’s page Depolo said, “I never considered this a boycott against businesses only. There are plenty of cultural, religious, and outdoorsy venues – beaches and parks – that I will not attend or spend my money on because of Holland’s unfortunately un-American decision.”
Though neither the Holland City Council nor the Chamber of Commerce have publicly commented on the group, some believe that a boycott of this nature will do more harm than good the city.
“A boycott is unfortunate,” Council member Myron Trethewey said. “The government is always going to be on the opposite side of somebody.”
Until Love Is = was formed the day after the vote and has grown rapidly in both membership and scope. Many members have become active on the message board posting notes of support or asking what they can do to help.
Some, like Kimberly Payne-Naik, have created yard signs proclaiming their allegiance; others are wearing custom made t-shirts.
“I didn’t anticipate anything I started would propel to this level; however, I knew the sentiment existed widely,” Wilson said. “The biggest surprise is the way the momentum continues to grow.”
As of now, two area business have formally joined the group; Globe Design and Vision at 49 E. Eighth St. and Blue House Bistro at 220 W. Eighth St.
“We set out our goals for the next week. These include additional partnerships, formalizing ties with leaders, soliciting more businesses to ‘come out’ on this issue within Holland, and coordinating apparel and signage orders. As for next week … I feel like much depends on the next few days,” Wilson said about how she hopes the group will grow.
The group’s Facebook page can be found at http://untilloveisequal.com/fb, and their standard website can be viewed at http://untilloveisequal.com/.