After over a year of heated debate, the Holland City Council will vote tonight on a measure that would amend the city's non-discrimination policy in housing and employment to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
Changes would come to Holland's Fair Housing Ordinance, the Human Relations Ordinance, and Equal Opportunity policy.
The Human Relations Commission in Holland recommended the change unanimously to Council in October 2010.
The issue was brought to city leaders by local chaplain Bill Freeman after Dustin Lance Black, an Oscar award winning screenplay writer, was banned from speaking at Hope College. Black later relocated to the Park Theater for a screening of the movie "Milk" and discussion on gay issues. Regardless if the changes pass or not, Hope is a private religious institution and therefore exempt.
Even the Holland Reformed Church of America Classis has thrown its support behind the measure.
"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)."
A BREAKDOWN OF HOLLAND CITY COUNCIL
Jay Peters: The only publicly confirmed yes vote, according to the Holland Sentinel.
Shawn Miller: Miller was recently appointed this spring, replacing councilman Jerome Thomas-Kobes. Mr. Miller seems to have moderate/libertarian tendencies. “I’m really giving this a tremendous amount of consideration,” Miller told the Sentinel. “I don’t want anyone to be or feel discriminated against. But I don’t think an ordinance will help that.”
Brian Burch: Elected in 2009, Burch, like Miller, has a moderate/libertarian side. He has been vocal about the need to keep young people in Holland and in Michigan. Burch clearly thinks an awful lot about the issues, and he has a promising future in Holland.
David Hoekstra: Leaning towards a yes vote, according to the Holland Sentinel.
Nancy DeBoer: Labels herself an "independent conservative," told the Sentinel: “I’m still listening and thinking and pondering and praying and talking to people.”
Myron Tretheway: Questions the need for the measure.
Kurt D. Dykstra, Mayor: Mayor Dykstra has the political capital to vote yes, but will he spend it? Dykstra voted not to send the issue to the HRC for a review, saying it should be a state or national issue. Mayor Dykstra is a dynamic leader who has been lauded for how available he is to Holland residents. He holds regular office hours, has a blog, communicates on Facebook and Twitter, and basically pulls out all the stops trying to interact with his constituents. He balances his Mayoral duties with being a partner at the law firm Warner Norcross and Judd, among other things he is involved in. Mayor Dykstra is not afraid to take risks, but he will also undoubtedly be in contention for higher office one day, and this is a watershed moment for him.
Todd Whiteman: thinks it should be up to a vote of the people, says Holland is evenly divided
Robert Vande Vusse: “In my 20 years on council, it’s probably the most input I’ve gotten on any topic,” he told the Sentinel. His constituents also are about evenly split, maybe a few more in favor than against, he also told the paper.
This vote is extremely tough to call, but WMP will take a shot.
Jay Peters is a confirmed yes. David Hoekstra is a confirmed "leaning yes.", Robert VandeVusse, because his constituents are slightly more in favor than against, and given his moderate politics, is in our estimation is a yes vote. Brian Burch, council's youngest member, will vote in favor of the measure to insure Holland is looked to as a place young people want to come, and for those already here- stay here.
Voting against: Todd Whiteman, who doesn't think it should be up to council, is a likely no vote. Myron Tretheway, who doesn't see the need for the measure, is also a likely no vote.
Miller is a complete coin-flip. For him, the question will be "can government help in this situation?" Given that empirical evidence, as referenced in the Grand Raids Press editorial, shows cities without protections for gays have more instances of discrimination than those without, we think Miller will come down as a yes vote. Miller is big on individual liberty, and if this measure will help uphold the liberty of some of Holland's citizens, Miller won't look at the issue as an inappropriate role for government. Just the opposite-the measure reasonably uses government to attempt to insure the liberty of Holland's gay residents.
Mayor Dykstra never wanted to vote on this, saying it was a national/state issue. Given that the Reformed Church of America's support of this measure can give him "cover" from those unhappy with his vote (and who would try to use it against him in a run for higher office) we think Mayor Dykstra will vote yes. Dykstra is an innovative leader who works extremely hard attempting to move Holland forward on all fronts. His political future won't be defined by this vote.
Nancy DeBoer will decide at the end of the day to vote no.
The above predictions would leave us at a vote of 6-3 in favor of the measure. Even if Miller ended up voting no, the measure would still pass 5-4. We believe that of Dykstra/Burch/Miller it is very possible one might vote against, but we would be quite surprised if two out of those three voted no. This is a bold prediction, but we are ready for plenty of humble pie if we're wrong.
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