The Kalamazoo Referendum: Lots Going On; You Need To Care About This
With the marriage equality battles going on in Maine and Washington State, and the federal legislation involving hate crimes and employment non-discrimination (ENDA), as well as repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) and the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA), it’s hard to ask lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, along with their friends, family, and allies, to care about a local ordinance regarding LGBT people in city of roughly a hundred-thousand people.
And yet, I’m here to say that the collective you, dear blenders, should care about the battle that’s right now going on in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
What One-Kalamazoo is fighting a battle on basic LGBT civil rights protections in their city. The Kalamazoo City Council passed an anti-discrimination ordinance for their city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans (LGBT) population, and religious right opposition gathered enough signatures to put the new civil rights ordinance up for a referendum. In other words, basic civil rights are again in the ballot in another locality.
From the Michigan Messenger:
…voters in Kalamazoo will decide the fate of the ordinance that seeks to add anti-discrimination protections for city residents who are gay or transgender. The measure has inspired an intense, if mostly underground, opposition.
The One Kalamazoo campaign headquarters is located on a busy intersection in downtown Kalamazoo, and on Wednesday afternoon Anderson was surrounded by the tell-tale signs of a humming campaign — numerous clipboards, stacks of flyers, a dry erase board, a nearby table with snacks. The two-term, married commissioner, a member of the group’s steering committee, said he thinks it’s important for the city “to go on record being a welcoming and inclusive place to live.”
Narda Beauchamp, a retired teacher and also a member of the One Kalamazoo steering committee, comes to the campaign with more personal motivation. In a recent interview, the mother of five children explains why her two lesbian daughters have moved away.
“After college, our two daughters planned to stay in Kalamazoo. They grew up here and started their careers here,” she said. “But after a lot of heartfelt conversations with the family, they told my husband and I that they need to move to another state and another city that already provided protections for housing, employment and public accommodations,” Beauchamp said, listing the kinds of discrimination Ordinance 1856 would outlaw if passed by voters.
“The other three siblings can’t understand why they automatically have these protections just because they’re straight,” she added.
The opposition has made this about bathrooms. The opposition literally found four trans women who were victims of discrimination, and smeared these trans women in their descriptions of the discrimination — including using the standard, gender smearing practice of putting trans women’s first names in quotation marks. The opposition has labeled the ordinance as the “Ordinance 1856, the so-called ‘gay rights’ and crossdressing ordinance!”
And because those who are engaging in this kind of behavior appear to be elements from the religious right, it’s easy to blame all Christians; to blame Christianity.
Last week, I spoke to Jon Hoadley, the One-Kalamazoo campaign director, as well as campaign volunteer Jonathan Richardson.
Jonathan Richardson is a person of faith; he’s also a member of an lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community member. He’s never been involved in politics before this referendum.
Jonathan attends a United Methodist Church that has about 1,000 members. Recently, about 90% of the voting congregants voted that the church become a welcoming and affirming church to the LGBT community. Many of Jonathan’s congregants are volunteering for the One-Kalamazoo campaign to protect this ordinance, and his church is one of five mainline protestant churches to support the One-Kalamazoo campaign; is one of the five mainline churches that is encouraging their congregants to work to preserve Kalamazoo’s antidiscrimination ordinance.
When I asked Jonathan why his church and he were participating in the campaign, he used phrases like “put faith into action,” “put passion into action,” and “God’s love is involved with everyone.”
And, as Jon Hoadley added: “It impacts real people’s lives.”
When there are so many non-LGBT people of faith volunteering their time to keep an ordinance in place that protects LGBT people from discrimination, that speaks to me that there is more than one faith-based value system in play. Basically, LGBT people have allies in faith communities.
And, local battles for full equality under the law matters. To say that the outcome in Kalamazoo is a referendum on how well the bathroom argument turns voters against all LGBT people; to say that transphobia — a true fear of trans women using public restrooms — is being used in an attempt to deny antidiscrimination for an entire population of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in a city of about 100,000 residents…this is not an exaggeration.
There are two interpretations of biblical scripture that are influencing volunteers — and voters — in Kalamazoo Michigan. Whether or not you believe this should be the case or not doesn’t have any bearing on whether or not it actually is the case: It is the case. We need to embrace our allies of faith because they can speak with authority to other voters of faith who haven’t made up their minds on how to vote as yet on this Kalamazoo referendum.
And frankly, just as in Maine and Washington state, this local election matters on a national stage. Think about a fully inclusive ENDA, and the message it will send to federal politicians if the transphobic, bathroom meme wins the day in Kalamazoo.
So, think about donating to One-Kalamazoo. One-Kalamazoo can purchase a television spot for as little as $75.00, and can buy a radio spot for as little as $35.00. Small donations of any size will go a long way in the Kalamazoo media market.
I asked Jon and Jonathan why this campaign should matter to the broader LGBT community. I’ve given reasons why, but here’s what volunteer Jonathan Richardson said:
When waters rises, all boats rise. Victory in Kalamazoo is a victory and a celebration for the entire community.
In my mind, he’s right. I donated $25.00 — it’s what I could afford. I want this win for all of us.
* One Kalamazoo airs its first ad
* Michigan: Kalamazoo approves inclusive anti-discrimination ordinance
* Kalamazoo Passes Non-Discrimination Ordinance, again
* AFA Michigan’s Gary Glenn Up To The Usual Fear Tactics — This Time In Kalamazoo
* No Rest(room) For (Trans)Gender Politics — And Why It Should Matter To LGBT People