Discrimination | Gay Rights | Michigan | News

It's Okay to Discriminate Against LGBT Citizens Again in Kalamazoo

An anti-discrimination law passed late last year has been rescinded by a City Commission in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Last week I posted that if that did not happen, the measure would have likely gone before voters.

KalamazooThe Chicago Tribune reports:

"The commission voted Dec. 1 to make it a civil offense in the city of 7,200 (note: pop. a typo - it's around 77,000) to discriminate in housing, public accommodations or employment based on sexual orientation or being transgender. The American Family Association of Michigan submitted petitions with about 1,600 signatures seeking the law's repeal. If officials found at least 1,273 signatures valid, the commission would have had to rescind the law or put it on the ballot. The commission voted 7-0 Monday night to rescind it."


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  1. Despicable, but typical of that side of the state of Michigan. Michigan is no home for GLBT folk, notwithstanding Ann Arbor, Ferndale, Royal Oak ... decidedly "tolerated" and not welcomed. Other than those cities, a very redneck and/or Religious Right mentality permeates.

    Posted by: Marty | Jan 13, 2009 10:32:26 AM

  2. Where are the protests?? Where is the gay community in Michigan? Why aren't they at the city's front door screaming????

    Posted by: Mike | Jan 13, 2009 10:43:56 AM

  3. I suppose it's a typo, but Kalamazoo has a population of 77,000. It's also the home of Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo College and, while in western Michigan, is relatively liberal. Something like this isn't good for the university communities or a city in an economically battered state that's trying to lure employers and high quality employees. But that's Michigan for you. Just like with Prop 8 in California, I'll bet the petition drive to overturn this law was coordinated by out of state people or at least people outside of Kalamazoo.

    Posted by: Jim | Jan 13, 2009 10:59:48 AM

  4. We have a long way to go. I'm curious whether this rule - that allows a crowd to overturn a Council vote, also provides for verification or authentication of the signatures?

    Are the names and/or addresses now considered public information?

    Posted by: Grego | Jan 13, 2009 11:08:17 AM

  5. The following Kalamazoo Gazette story offers a lot more context to this story:

    Disgusted? Contact the following bigots:

    Mayor Bobby J. Hopewell

    Vice Mayor Hannah J. McKinney

    David Anderson

    Don Cooney

    Sean McCann

    Barbara Hamilton-Miller

    Stephanie L. Moore

    (Source: http://www.kalamazoocity.org/portal/government.php?page_id=33)

    Posted by: Andre | Jan 13, 2009 11:11:35 AM

  6. This is why we need ENDA; until there is federal protections against discrimination, bigotry like this will thrive.

    Much of the major focus on civil rights for gays has been focused on marriage and civil rights in the press. That has been due to gays being on the defense in many cases (like Prop 8).

    From a national perspective, wouldn't it be easier to get ENDA passed than DADT or DOMA/federal civil unions? Wouldn't ENDA also offer the most protection and benefit to more GLBT Americans than the other civil rights legislative efforts?

    Posted by: noah | Jan 13, 2009 11:41:33 AM

  7. Is it possible that they rescinded it to keep it from going to a vote, and maybe there is something going on in the back room where they'll fix it later?

    The link that Andre provided above has some good info. This broad (Balkema) is a real piece of work:

    ""This will have to be a private dialogue because no one wants to be the public target of yelling and screaming," Balkema said, citing e-mails she received promising political retribution for her stance.

    "Good people are not speaking publicly on this issue because of fear.""

    I think what she meant to say is that "Good People" want to be able to throw stones from the cover of darkness so no one knows who is voting against their very lives.

    As always, sunlight is the best cure for darkness.

    Funny how "Good People" can say or do the most despicable things with impunity, as long as they target gays or any other church-sanctioned minority. Even funnier is how the church folk freak out when that minority responds.

    I think one of our (GLBT Community) problems is that we have lived for so long being harrassed, abused, and murdered by "Good People" that we still have a tendency to accept it as tradition. Certainly some members of our community get fired up about shit like this, but seems like that happens more in places with large gay populations.

    We need to put together a group like Phred Phelps' group. A bunch of people who can mobilize and travel to places like Kalamazoo and let them know that the country is watching them. Of course, our group wouldn't be a bunch of inbred and inter-related genetic experiments, and we would have truth and sanity on our side.

    I really do think that there are more people who aren't afraid of gays than that are afraid. I think it's just apathy that lets the haters and bigots continue to win. They have their fear and hate to help keep them focussed on abusing anyone not like them.

    Posted by: MikeinSanJose | Jan 13, 2009 12:12:19 PM

  8. Michigan IS scary; I lived there 17 years, and aside from Ann Arbor it is backwards and homophobic.

    This IS a full-out war against our families, yet we continue fighting this gun-battle with weapons that are tantamount to feathers and boas (instead of cannons). The entire country will continue thinking we're all faggots and wimps until we fight with something that gets attention - the FIST of a tax revolt. But no, we're on the 30-year plan for federal equality. So keep waiting.

    Posted by: John Bisceglia | Jan 13, 2009 1:34:28 PM

  9. Damnit! Now I have to unpack everything and plan a new place to move...

    Aw, michigan...blech and barf. It is despicable, and hopefully they'll just get punished harder as a result...brain drain, too.

    Posted by: TANK | Jan 13, 2009 1:35:27 PM

  10. My husband's family is in Western Michigan. I'm so sad to see this happen. I hope this mobilizes gay Michiganders. Until this happens, here's the number for the Kalamazoo treasurer (the major opponent), Mary Balkema.
    (269) 337-8036

    I let her know that my family will boycott Kalamazoo.

    Posted by: Brian | Jan 13, 2009 2:05:18 PM

  11. You should have posted the entire article.

    Last line - "Commissioner Stephanie Minor tells WWMT-TV the council will consider a revised gay rights law."

    They didn't want it to come to a vote because they knew the outcome would be bad.

    Don't go blaming the commission with a knee-jerk reaction.

    Posted by: Jason | Jan 13, 2009 2:21:12 PM

  12. I e-mailed the mayor and he wrote back:

    Thank you for your email, I am not sure you are clear on what happened with our action last night. This issue is not over and our commitment has not changed. We will welcome all comments and communication and at the end of the day the city commission has committed to a human rights ordinance.

    I view issues of equity and diversity as a marathon not a sprint and that equity always wins the race.

    Again, thanks for your email and please stay tuned there is more to come.

    Supporting the journey,


    Posted by: lkvwtimer | Jan 13, 2009 2:23:55 PM

  13. It's so sad to hear this about the town you grew up in all the way from the other side of the country. *sigh*

    Posted by: Brandon Jones | Jan 13, 2009 3:03:47 PM

  14. This is so sad to hear. I lived in Kalamazoo for nearly 7 years. It's a beautiful city, and has a great gay community.
    And I feel sorry for Marty for never driving west of Ann Arbor before. Visit Grand Rapids, K-zoo, Lansing, and Saugatuck before making such a ridiculous statement. Hell, Saugatuck is a gay resort town! Its to Chicagoans what Fire Island is to New Yorkers.

    Posted by: ridwah | Jan 14, 2009 2:26:50 AM

  15. I am a gay citizen of Kalamazoo and I was at the commission meeting in Monday. Our commission and the Mayor are not bigots. Everyone of them strongly supports this ordinance. They all spoke very passionately about the need for every citizen of our city to have equal rights. The reason for the ordinance was rescinded was was to allow it to be rewritten without it going to a vote. We can have a new ordinance on the books faster this way. Every commission member stated that we will have an ordinance in place to protect everyone and that it is a priority to them all (even the highly conservative ones) to get this done. Please don't see our hard working leaders as bigots. They are trying very hard to get this on the books.

    Posted by: Christopher | Jan 14, 2009 7:47:40 AM

  16. met some pols working the Farmers market today and am quite surprised at the political scene with respect to this anti gay sentiment.
    Kids here use the term " gay" to denote something wak or not right. what kind of backwater attitude is that? Discrimination is wrong, period.
    These anti gays here have ZERO credibility among people of conscience.Conservative does not infer religious ethics, get off that. You want to hide your BIGOTRY under the conservative umbrella and you'll find it does not resonate with the rest of the movement. Kalamazoo is stuck in the 50's.
    ...left coast eye in kalamazoo

    Posted by: r kling | Sep 26, 2009 8:57:07 PM

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