Kalamazoo Commission Set to Move on Anti-Discrimination Ordinance

Todd Heywood

A special committee of the Kalamazoo City Commission is expected to move a controversial anti-discrimination ordinance back to the full commission for final reconsideration.

A special
committee of the City Commission in Kalamazoo, Mich., is expected to move a
controversial anti-discrimination ordinance back to the full commission
for final reconsideration. The ordinance was passed last December but
was promptly repealed when opponents collected enough signatures to put
the measure to another vote.

The ordinance was criticized by social conservatives because it
expanded anti-discrimination laws to include sexual orientation in
addition to gender identity and expression. The ordinance, unlike
similar local ordinances in the state, also specifically prohibits
discrimination on the basis of HIV status.

As a result of the petitioning process, city commissioners said they
would pass the ordinance again but created the special committee to
hear additional testimony about proposed changes to the law. That
committee held a special session for that purpose on March 11.

Sean Brier, a spokesman for Kalamazoo Alliance for Equality (KAFE),
said his group will be in attendance Wednesday night at another meeting
of the special committee.

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"The subcommittee is reviewing language that has been proposed by
the city attorney, Clyde Anderson. Based on whatever recommendations
they get from him, they will decide on recommending or not recommending
to the full commission," Brier said.

The ordinance is expected to pass out of committee.

But the controversy surrounding the anti-discrimination ordinance is
forcing a group pushing a ballot initiative related to marijuana use to
postpone its campaign for fear that a mobilized opposition to the
anti-discrimination ordinance could sink the pot measure as a result.

The local group has been working to amend the city charter to make possession of small amounts of marijuana law enforcement’s lowest priority, but as the Kalamazoo Gazette reports, it’s thinking there’s a good chance the anti-discrimination ordinance could make it onto the November ballot.

According to the Gazette, the reason for the suspended activity was simple:

But [organizer Louis Cloise] Stocking said organized
opposition is expected if the proposed ordinance creating a protected
class for gays, lesbians and transgender people in employment, housing
and public accommodations is placed on the ballot. That opposition, she
said, could have carried over to the marijuana-enforcement initiative.

Brier said the decision by the Kalamazoo Coalition for Pragmatic
Cannabis Laws to delay its initiative until next year had no reflection
on the support for the anti-discrimination ordinance.

"Our indication has been very positive towards an inclusive ordinance," he said.

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