Kalamazoo voters approve nondiscrimination ordinance

Posted on 05 Oct 2009 at 6:19pm
By From staff and wire reports

Landslide victory culminates 2-year battle in southwestern Michigan city

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Voters in Kalamazoo have overwhelmingly approved a measure banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

With all precincts reporting Tuesday, Nov. 3, the ordinance had 7,671 votes in favor to 4,731 opposed. The ordinance adds LGBT people to an existing ordinance banning discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations in Kalamazoo, a town of 72,000.

"I am elated with the outcome of the election," said Janice Brown, a steering committee member for Yes on Ordinance 1856/One Kalamazoo. "This vote reinforces what our campaign set out to prove — that our fellow residents of Kalamazoo share the belief that all people should be treated fairly and equally, including gay and transgender people."

The Yes on 1856/One Kalamazoo campaign involved hundreds of local volunteers and contributors, and had the endorsement of more than 30 local religious, social, business and political organizations. The group reported raising more than $350,000 in its pre-election campaign finance report, more than 10 times the funds reported by the opposition, Citizens Voting NO to Special Rights Discrimination.

The effort to amend the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance began nearly two years ago, and the changes were approved unanimously by the City Commission in late 2008. However, opponents of the ordinance launched a successful petition drive forcing commissioners to either rescind the ordinance or put it to a public vote.

After a six-month public input period, the commission unanimously approved a "compromise" version of the ordinance this June that exempted religious organizations and schools. But opponents said the new version didn’t go far enough in protecting religious liberties and didn’t provide rules on gender-based bathroom use. They launched another successful petition drive, and the commission decided to place the matter on the ballot.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 06, 2009.

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