Kalamazoo Discrimination Protection for Gays Referendum (2009)

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The Kalamazoo Discrimination Protection for Gays Referendum, or the Ordinance 1856 ballot proposition, was on the November 3 ballot in Kalamazoo County for voters in the City of Kalamazoo.

The November 3 ballot proposition was a veto referendum measure which allowed voters to potentially overturn a newly-enacted ordinance passed by the Kalamazoo City Council that extends anti-discrimination laws in the city to include gay, lesbian and transgendered individuals[1][2]

A 'yes' vote is a vote to include gay, lesbian and transgendered individuals in the list of those against whom it is illegal to discriminate in matters of employment and housing. A 'no' vote is a vote to leave the city's anti-discrimination ordinances as they were, which means that discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgendered individuals in matters of housing and employment would not be addressed in the city's codes.[3]

Election result

Kalamazoo Discrimination Protection for Gays Referendum
Result Votes Percentage
Approveda Yes 7,671 61.85%
No 4731 38.15%
Total votes 12402 100.00%
Voter turnout 0%


National interest

The vote on Ordinance 1856 has drawn national interest in the wake of the vote for Proposition 8 in California in 2008. Two statewide veto referendum questions, the Maine Same-Sex Marriage People's Veto, Question 1 (2009) and Washington Referendum 71 (2009) are also on the November 3 ballot.

Text of measure

The question on the ballot says, "Shall Ordinance No. 1856, adopted by the City Commission June 29, 2009, which amended Chapter 18 of the City Code of Ordinances to generally prohibit discriminatory practices on the basis of an individual’s race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, height, weight, marital status, physical or mental disability, family status, sexual orientation or gender identity in the provision of housing, public accommodations, and employment, take effect?"

Supporters of a "yes" vote

Website banner of "Yes" campaign

The gay rights group, Kalamazoo Alliance for Equality, is leading the campaign for a "yes" vote. They have been working with Jon Hoadley, executive director of the Stonewall Democrats, a Washington, D.C.-based gay-rights organization, to develop strategies to win their campaign.

Arguments for "yes"

Reasons given in favor of a "yes" vote include:

  • It will ensure fair treatment for all, not imposing on anyone's freedoms.[5]
  • It is not right "to be able to fire someone, kick that person out of his/her home, or deny access to restaurants and other public accommodations just because a person is gay or transgender."

"Yes" endorsers

A partial list of those who endorse a "yes" vote includes:

  • League of Women Voters
  • Kalamazoo County Democratic Party
  • YWCA
  • Planned Parenthood of South Central Michigan
  • Michigan Log Cabin Republicans
  • South Central Michigan AFL-CIO Labor Council
  • Full list of supporters

Supporters of a "no" vote

Ad produced by "No" campaign
The campaign for a "no" vote is led by Kalamazoo Citizens Voting No to Special Rights Discrimination. This group led the petition drive to put the measure on the ballot.


Arguments they give for a "no" vote include:

  • It oversteps the city's authority, and is possibly in conflict with state and federal laws.[5]
  • "In other locations in the U.S. and elsewhere, when laws similar to proposed Ordinance 1856 have been adopted, individuals and community organizations have been discriminated against, persecuted, and punished not for any violent act but for what they believe."
  • "We strongly believe that all citizens should have equal rights, and that elevating the beliefs of one group over those of another is indeed both a "special right" and discrimination."

"No" endorsers

The Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo urges a "no" vote on the measure. The Bishop of the diocese said he could not support the language of the referendum. He also stated that while the church teaches tolerance and non-discrimination, he believes the ordinance could result in coercive behavior that the church could not stand behind. The statement also said the Catholic church will appose any gay rights legislation even if it is written so as to explicitly leave church organizations free to discriminate.[6]

Others who support a "no" vote include:

  • Nasim Ansari (member, Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners)
  • Jeff Balkema, Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners
  • Mary Balkema, Kalamazoo Country Treasurer
  • Tim Bero, Pastor, Community Presbyterian Church
  • Joel Brooks, Pastor, Christian Life Center
  • List of advisory board of "No" campaign

Path to the ballot

189 pages of petitions containing about 1,600 signatures were turned into the city clerk's office in late December 2008 to qualify the measure for the May ballot. Instead of sending the issue to the May ballot, the city commission instead chose to throw out the proposed ordinance, an alternative that is allowed by the Kalamazoo City Charter. The ordinance was then re-adopted on Monday, June 29,2009 by a unanimous vote from the Kalamazoo City Commission after six months of heated debate. The measure then went into effect on July 9, 2009.[2]

"Kalamazoo Citizens Voting No to Special Rights Discrimination" gathered petition signatures for referendum on the proposed ordinance immediately after the second adoption. The deadline to submit the required 1,273 signatures to City Clerk Scott Borling was July 29, 2009. The group met the deadline and so the ordinance will be sent to the November ballot for voters to decide on.[7]

Campaign finances

It was recorded that the battle over this ballot question was one of the most expensive in Kalamazoo county. The group One Kalamazoo raised $402,035 for their campaign with Jon Stryker being their largest contributor. It was estimated that about $37 was spent per ballot cast. In the opposition group, RJDM Balkema was their largest contributor with $12,000 being donated. The price and donor range came in all amounts and from all different places all over the county. Out of state contributors also donated to the campaign, Jon Stryker's sister from Colorado donated $5,000.[8]

See also

External links


Additional reading