Bil Browning

Kalamazoo human rights ordinance to go to the ballot

Filed By Bil Browning | July 29, 2009 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: gender identity, human rights ordinance, Kalamazoo, Michigan, sexual orientation

Kalamazoo, Michigan recently passed an inclusive human rights ordinance that includes sexual orientation and gender identity. 3629668-500x500.jpgOpponents turned in enough signatures to get the measure put on the ballot. They needed 1,274 signatures to put the ordinance up for a vote; they turned in about 2,100 signatures.

Supporters though, had a trick up their sleeves. They revealed they had also been gathering signatures in support of the inclusive ordinance. Supporters revealed 5,708 signatures.

"The purpose of this ordinance is simple: everyone should be treated the same way on the job, in the housing market, and in public places," Amy Hunter of Kalamazoo Alliance for Equality said at a press conference an hour ago. "By collecting 5,708 signatures, we're here to affirm what the City Commission already knew when they voted--Kalamazoo citizens support basic fairness for everyone, reject discrimination, and want to build a united community."

The signatures in support of the ordinance won't stop it from going up for a vote, but it does send a clear message to Kalamazoo residents that the majority of citizens support equality.

Complete text of the speakers' remarks after the jump. We should have video of the press conference and more pictures later this evening; I'll update the post as it comes in. Thanks to Projectors Adam and Jon for sending us the info.

Steve Gerike:

Hi and welcome. Today the Kalamazoo Alliance for Equality is excited and pleased to show that the people of Kalamazoo truly support an inclusive community.

My name is Steve Gerike and I am the President of KAFE, the Kalamazoo Alliance for Equality. The mission of KAFE is to promote equality for all people in Kalamazoo.

Because of our commitment to equality, we have been pleased to work with the community and the City Commission to pass an inclusive non-discrimination ordinance that ensures no one in Kalamazoo is denied the chance for a good job, a safe home, or entrance into public space just because they are gay or transgender.

We knew that after the City Commission made history by unanimously passing the non-discrimination ordinance last month, opponents of equality would begin circulating petitions to repeal the ordinance. KAFE had a responsibility to show the other side of the story--the side where thousands of people support ending discrimination, support the ordinance, and support bringing our community together.

I'd like to introduce one of the co-chairs of our action committee, Amy Hunter, to explain our "Signatures of Support" project.

Amy Hunter:

Thanks, Steve.

My name is Amy Hunter. It's been my honor to serve as co-chair of KAFE's action committee.

Back in February of this year we began to build support for the non-discrimination ordinance through public forums and education events, but we knew that wouldn't be enough.

We began a project to let supporters of the non-discrimination ordinance put their name on paper as a public supporter. We called this project our "Statement of Support." You see, we knew, when asked to show what our community really feels about including all of our neighbors, Kalamazoo would rise to the occasion.

We canvassed at festivals, in neighborhoods, and online for statements of support. We partnered with people of faith and religious institutions to show that support reached from the pulpit to the pews. We partnered with community organizations and educational groups and found support not only in the classroom, but also in the boardroom. We talked to neighbors from the North Side to Milwood, from Winchell to Westnedge Hill, and in every neighborhood, on every street, in every corner of this, our community; we found more statements of support.

And as a result, we can say with certainty today that Kalamazoo supports a united community. Kalamazoo supports the non-discrimination ordinance.

I want to turn the microphone over to my colleague and co-chair of the action committee, Terry Kueseske to discuss our findings.

Terry Kueseske:

Thank you, Amy.

It is with extreme pleasure that I can stand here and announce the results of what is the hard work of so many people. Before we make the actual announcement, I just want to take this opportunity to thank a few groups of people in particular.

First, thank you to the KAFE Steering Committee for your leadership in this process. I'd also like to thank all the individuals serving on the KAFE Action Committee for giving up so much of your time to make this project successful. Finally, I'd like to thank all the canvassers and super volunteers who made this project truly a community effort! Let's give them a round of applause!

Alright, let's get onto the big number.

After finally totaling up all the signers on the statements of support I am pleased to announce that 5,708 people are ready to support equality in Kalamazoo!

The sample petitions you get from the City Clerk has room for 12 signatures on a page. We printed out 13 signatures per page and we still collected 437 pages of signatures.

What do 437 pages of names mean?

If you lined up all those pages it would be enough to reach from the top of city hall to the ground and back again.

If you lined up all those pages we could stretch all the way across Bronson Park.

But most importantly, if you lined up all the pages you'd see a community united in support of equality. There are many things that make all of us different from each other, but one of the things that bring us together is we can agree that discrimination is wrong. People who work hard should all have an equal opportunity to succeed, and that's exactly what the Kalamazoo Non-Discrimination ordinance does.

I hope all the citizens of Kalamazoo will join the thousands of people who have already supported the ordinance and add their name to the statement of support. If you haven't had a chance yet you can still sign the online statement of support by visiting

Thank you everyone! Kalamazoo is ready to stand up for equality and we're ready to stand with Kalamazoo!

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Bil, how many of the 5,000+ signatures gathered by Kalamazoo ordinance supporters actually residents of that city? It appears a primary source of their signatures was an online form which, literally, anyone in the world could have signed.

Ordinance opponents, by law, had to gather their over 2,000 sigs only from registered voters who reside within the city limits.

Angela Brightfeather | July 30, 2009 8:50 AM


This is what I call "Activism", with a capital "A". This is the type of thing we need a lot more of in our community and I tip my hat to the people of KAFE for their proactive activism in support of their rights, rather than sitting around and waiting for the next shoe to drop.

This type of action takes the air right out of the Religious Rights tires because it puts them in the minority seat instead of GLBT people when it comes to human rights.

Great example of the way it should be done KAFE.

What is this, the 1970s? I thought the religious right had finally grown out of thinking gays didn't deserve protection from discrimination and ought to be able to work at their jobs and live in their homes without fear of being fired or evicted if their sexual orientation is discovered, and that the religious right merely wanted to ban same-sex marriage.

Oh, wait...