Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Boycott Group Seeks a Re-Vote by Holland City Council-NOT a Referendum by Holland Voters

West Michigan Politics Talks to "Boycott Holland Until Love is Equal" Spokesman Drew Stoppels

The group boycotting Holland over gay rights issues knows exactly what they want-they just don't know which road they'll take to get there.

"Boycott is a very strong word, a word that conveys emotion," Drew Stoppels, spokesman for "Boycott Holland until love is =" told West Michigan Politics. "As we've moved on, their has been discussion about possibly reforming the language."

Stoppels also said the group will likely be emphasizing the second half of their name, "Until Love is =," rather than the part about boycotting Holland.

Holland City Council voted 5-4 on June 17 to reject a measure providing protections for sexual orientation and gender identity under Holland law.

Stoppels said the group is not formally connected with any others, such as "Holland Is Ready."

WMP asked Stoppels what message a boycott sends to undecided Holland voters who might support gay rights but don't think government can help, or folks who look at the situation and believe the group is forcing businesses who might want to stay out of the debate altogether-into a bad situation.

"Let's take a step back," Stoppels said. "Holland City Council can't take a stand and not expect a backlash. This is a proper reaction to Holland City Council's 5-4 vote. Much of the business community supports it-Herman Miller, Hayworth-we want to use this to influence a re-vote by council. Here's what I say to undecided voters: it has to pass. Other people in the city are being effected-lost jobs, lost opportunities. A group of people are being discriminated against and their are no protections for them."

Trying to focus on a re-vote and avoiding a referendum is an interesting strategy.

Stoppels doesn't believe a re-vote would give Holland a perception they can be held hostage by boycotts and political groups.

"The perception would be good," Stoppels said. "(The perception would be) that Holland is welcoming of everyone and respectful of all its citizens."

Stoppels doesn't foresee another cliffhanging vote.

"We do not just want a fifth vote," Stoppels said. "We want it to pass in a re-vote by two or three votes."

Today, the Center for Michigan highlighted Holland in its article "Michigan has schizophrenic response to same-sex relationships."

Stoppels believes perceptions of Holland after the vote will impact a possible second look by council.

"In the face of (gay marriage being passed in) New York and other successes, the vote gives the appearance that Holland is a backwards part of the country," Stoppels said. "That's gonna sway votes."

Apparently the infamous "Dutch Mafia" does exist: Stoppels says much is a foot behind closed doors among Holland's power players.

"Their are behind the scenes negotiations happening that we are influencing," Stoppels said. "Their was behind the scenes discussion before the vote as well, where certain council members were threatened politically by some of Holland's big name families."

If Holland City Council re-votes, it will surely include a religious exemption. WMP asked Stoppels how he feels about that fact.

"I can see the argument to a certain extent," Stoppels said. "Where does it end though? Are you going to exempt black people? Jews? Women?"

Stoppels recognizes the right of religious people to be included in the discussion, but has little patience for religious organizations.

"Religious institutions are tax exempt," Stoppels said. "They need to stay out of the political debate. Either pay taxes or stay out of it."

WMP asked why Saugatuck isn't being boycotted over its rejection of a pro gay sex-ed video.

"Our focus is this issue-the employment and housing vote in Holland," Stoppels said.

Check out West Michigan Politics other coverage on this issue:

Political Circus Coming to Holland

Previewing Tonight's City Council Vote

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