Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Gay Rights Issues in Holland Far From Over

WMP ate humble pie after last week's vote by the Holland City Council on a controversial gay rights measure. We thought it would pass 5-4, it was in fact defeated 5-4.

In an email with a Holland Council member after the vote, we said the five hour meeting and hundreds of people who attended would look like a picnic compared to the insanity that was coming.

That part we did get right. The "circus" is coming to Holland. Political circus that is.

The folks upset with the vote are now organizing a boycott of all things Holland, Michigan. The group, "I'm boycotting Holland (MI) until love is =" thought a boycott would be the best way to have an impact, according to WZZM 13 News.

The group is exempting businesses who supported the measure and trying to identify just who those businesses are via email and the Internet.

Also in the works: a ballot measure that will put the issue in front of Holland's voters. Rumor has it however that a religious exemption wouldn't be included in the language, essentially removing any chance of getting Holland's religious institutions to support the proposition.

The Holland Reformed Church Classis boldly SUPPORTED the measure before council, issuing the following statement leading up to the vote:

"We are aware of the current discussion in our community surrounding the consideration of amending a civil rights ordinance in the City of Holland. In the midst of this atmosphere, the Holland Classis offers this statement: The position of the Reformed Church in America is that the denial of human and civil rights based on sexual identity is inconsistent with the biblical witness and Reformed theology*. In faithfulness to this position, the Holland Classis expresses its support for every civil rights ordinance that affirms the value and dignity of each person. In the midst of many theological, political, and social differences, valuing civil rights for all serves the Holland community well. We offer this statement with conviction and humility, as we seek to be faithful to God and to serve our community with gratitude and joy.

While we cannot affirm homosexual behavior, at the same time we are convinced that the denial of human and civil rights to homosexuals is inconsistent with the biblical witness and Reformed theology (Minutes of General Synod 1978: 233-239)."

The boycott and ballot drive seem to be completely separate entities for now. Plus-how can you campaign for your position in Holland if you're boycotting it?

Controversial leader of the American Family Association Gary Glenn was quick to applaud Mayor Dykstra and the majority of Holland City Council in a press release:

“Mayor Dykstra and the city council were right to have the courage to reject demands by homosexual activists and their allies for this discriminatory ordinance. In other cities and states, these so-called ‘sexual orientation’ laws have proven to themselves be discriminatory, being used to discriminate against and punish individual Christians, strip churches of their tax-exempt status, punish Christian business owners, and discriminate against and violate the civil rights and religious freedom of cherished community groups such as the Boy Scouts, Salvation Army, and Catholic Charities who refuse to endanger children by endorsing homosexual activists’ political agenda.”

Glenn also says he will help anyone who runs against Councilmembers who supported the measure. Shawn Miller, who was appointed, didn't run for the seat, so that's open. Jay Peters, the measures most vocal supporter on council, is in a heated three way primary, but don't look for this issue to cost him re-election in Holland's "Liberal Second Ward." The issue may not cost him votes, but it could give his opponents some volunteers and cash, making the race a lot more interesting. Two others are up for re-election, VandeVusse and Hoekstra, but they are unopposed and a write-in candidate would be required.

Friday, we will weigh in on how a campaign to pass the ordinance via the electorate might want to operate if it hopes to attain the magic number: 50%+1 vote.

Glenn opined that any ballot measure would fail, citing 64% of Hollanders supported the 2004 "Marriage Amendment" that banned gay marriages and civil unions in Michigan. That was 2004 however, concerned marriage, and didn't have the support of Holland's Reformed Church Classis. This measure's original language did, concerns employment and housing, and 2011's politics are different than 2004's.Until the language that would go before voters is finalized, it's awfully hard to predict how Holland will vote.

 First picture: a poster from supporters of the gay rights measure
 Second picture: Holland Mayor Kurt Dykstra
 Third picture: American Family Association Michigan President Gary Glenn