by Terry Kuseske
When you read this, less than 50 days will remain before voters in Kalamazoo decide who in Michigan deserves to be treated fairly and equally.
For more than two years, people in Kalamazoo, led by the Kalamazoo Alliance for Equality and supported by local partners, have educated, lobbied and organized to pass a fully inclusive non-discrimination ordinance. The ordinance as passed by the Kalamazoo City Commission on June 29 would simply adjust existing law to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of demographics – like race, gender, age and marital status – that can’t be the reason to deny someone the ability to provide for themselves and their families.
In a story seen all too often across Michigan, a small group of extremists came together to try to repeal Kalamazoo’s pro-equality non-discrimination protections. Those people used the worst misinformation and stereotypes to get just enough people to sign a petition to put the protections up to a vote and force it to the ballot.
We can’t let them win.
Opponents of equality are already out trying to confuse voters, skew the real issues and scare voters through lies. This last weekend we saw the first of what will promise to be many flyers demonizing gay and transgender people.
I am a long-time Kalamazoo resident and I know these are not the values of Kalamazoo.
In the month the non-discrimination ordinance was in effect, Kalamazoo was a place where everyone was safe to live, work and visit. Now voters will have a chance to show the rest of the state what sort of city Kalamazoo wants to be – one that welcomes all people, including gay and transgender people, and rejects fear mongering and hatred.
The vote means so much to Kalamazoo. The result of the vote will send a signal to business, students and families about the values of Kalamazoo. But the vote means something to people across Michigan as well.
There are groups in Michigan that are focusing on taking away equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Last year, they were successful in Hamtramck at repealing a similar ordinance. We have to come together to make sure people vote YES for fairness and equality this time in Kalamazoo.
Whether we like it or not, we know what happens in Kalamazoo doesn’t stay in Kalamazoo. If we lose in Kalamazoo, other cities thinking about treating gay and transgender people fairly may think twice. If we lose in Kalamazoo, it sends the signal that Michigan as a state isn’t welcoming to diversity. If we lose in Kalamazoo, anti-equality groups will set their sites on the next community to take away equality.
We’re all affected by what happens in Kalamazoo and we need everyone’s help to make sure we win.
Volunteers are working hard every day in Kalamazoo to talk to voters, build coalitions and tell the truth about the lives of gay and transgender people. But we need a bigger team.
There are a few things you can do to join the One Kalamazoo campaign – no matter where you live.
First, take a minute to visit http://www.onekalamazoo.com and sign up for more information. You can help us spread the word online by using the tell-a-friend feature, becoming a fan of One Kalamazoo on Facebook and suggesting your friends become fans, or by promoting One Kalamazoo on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and MySpace.
Second, please make an investment in the One Kalamazoo campaign by donating online. It will take significant resources to answer the lies about the non-discrimination ordinance and the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Donate at http://www.OneKalamazoo.com.
Finally, plan a trip to come to Kalamazoo. We need your help to talk to voters. If you’re interested in canvassing, send an e-mail to [email protected] and we’ll figure out the best time to help you make a difference.
Let’s make sure Kalamazoo – and Michigan – votes yes for fairness and equality for everybody. Let’s make sure we tell the truth about the lives of gay and transgender people. Let’s make sure we stand together, united as One Kalamazoo.