by Jessica Carreras
KALAMAZOO – There was much to celebrate in Kalamazoo on Nov. 3.
In local government, Mayor Bobby Hopewell will be holding his spot for a second two-year term, while incumbents staying on include Vice Mayor Hannah McKinney and Commissioners Don Cooney, David Anderson, Barbara Miller and Stephanie Moore. The only newcomer to the group is the openly gay Terry Kuseske, who has been known as a staunch proponent of LGBT equality in west Michigan.
But the biggest news of the day came in the passage of the city’s non-discrimination ordinance, which will protect Kalamazoo citizens against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression in the areas of public services, housing and employment.
Support for the ordinance, which was passed unanimously by the City Commission earlier this year but sent to the ballot due to a petition with opposing signatures, was headed up by One Kalamazoo. The campaign spent months canvassing, making phone calls to residents and educating voters through other methods, such as television advertisements. By the time Election Day rolled around, the group had worked with hundreds of volunteers and contributors from across the state, and had the endorsement of over 30 local religious, social, business and political organizations.
“Our campaign started with a very basic idea, and today voters confirmed that we are One Kalamazoo,” said Campaign Manager Jon Hoadley after results came in Tuesday night.
In fact, Kalamazoo’s vote for Ordinance 1856 was overwhelmingly yes, with supporters garnering 65 percent of the vote. The vote came in at 6,463 to 3,527. Some absentee ballots remain to be counted, however the number is not large enough to sway the vote the other way.
“I am elated with the outcome of the election,” says Yes on Ordinance 1856/One Kalamazoo Steering Committee member and local resident Janice Brown. “This vote reinforces what our campaign set out to prove – that our fellow residents of Kalamazoo share the belief that all people should be treated fairly and equally, including gay and transgender people.”
Steering Committee and local Pastor of the First Congregational Church in Kalamazoo Rev. Matt Laney agreed. “Kalamazoo is a great place to live and the passage of Ordinance 1856 makes the city an even better place,” he said. “I am proud to live in a city that recognizes that all people deserve fairness and respect.”
Dave Garcia, executive director of the Kalamazoo Gay and Lesbian Resource Center, also heralded the outcome. Garcia and the center worked hand in hand with One Kalamazoo on making sure voters had correct information, as well as recording and disseminating information about acts of discrimination in the city. Garcia said the work paid off. “Kalamazoo has spoken overwhelmingly for equality and fairness,” he said. “It is important to remember that collectively we are all a part of the gay rights movement and that at every turn we continue to make progress. It is simply a matter of time before equality and justice prevail for the LGBT community across our entire nation.”