In the wake of an election cycle that saw passage of four statewide anti-gay measures, conservative groups in cities large and small appear to be targeting hard-won gay rights at the local level for repeal.
On November 4, voters in three states – California, Arizona and Florida – approved constitutional amendments banning gay marriage. And in Arkansas, a new law forbids gay couples from fostering or adopting a child.
But as the dust settles on those state contests, conservatives have turned their attention to the repeal of pro-gay legislation at the local level.
On December 1, city leaders in Kalamazoo voted in favor of protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination in the areas of housing, public accommodations and employment. The Michigan city, population 77,000, joined 15 other cities in the state which have adopted similar laws.
It now appears the pro-gay legislation, unanimously approved by city commissioners, will be subject to a vote by the people, the result of a local petition drive spearheaded by the state chapter of the American Family Association, an ultra-conservative group responsible for several nationwide boycotts against brands deemed too gay friendly, McDonald's, Campbell's and Ford included.
The group submitted 1,864 signatures on December 31, nearly 600 more than required to suspend the law until commissioners vote to repeal it or voters decide its future.
It appears unlikely that lawmakers are about to vote against their own legislation, leaving it up to voters to decide its fate. Opponents of the ordinance cited moral and religious objections to the ordinance. City Attorney Clyde Robinson told the 'Kalamazoo Gazette' that the vote will most probably be scheduled for early May.
An earlier vote is scheduled in Gainesville, Florida, where opponents to the addition of a gender identity clause to the city's anti-discrimination law collected more than 6,000 signatures to repeal both gender identity and sexual orientation as protected classes from discrimination in the city.
A citywide vote is scheduled for March 24.
Citizens for Good Public Policy argued that adding gender identity as a protected class would allow men to use women's restrooms, giving sexual predators easy access to victims.
Gainesville passed legislation protecting gays, lesbians and bisexuals from discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations and credit in 1998. And added transgender people to that list last January.
And voters in Cleveland, Ohio may be asked to settle a similar fight over a newly-passed gay domestic partner registry.
Monday was the deadline to submit about 11,000 signatures to stop the registry from taking effect. It now appears that effort has failed and the registry will become law, but its life may be short.
United Pastors in Mission, a group of mostly black ministers led by president Rev. C. Jay Matthews of the Mount Sinai Baptist Church and director Rev. Marvin McMickle of Antioch Baptist Church, announced last week that it will pursue an “ordinance by initiative” option that allows the group to submit legislation that would repeal the registry directly to city leaders. But it seems unlikely the city council would vote to repeal their own measure; in that case, the group could put the issue on the ballot.
Cleveland's domestic partner registry allows gay and straight couples to seek recognition of their union from the city. Ohio passed one of the toughest gay marriage bans in the country four years ago. To ensure that the registry does not run afoul of the state's prohibition it lacks any force of law and guarantees no protections whatsoever. Any benefits given to couples would be strictly voluntary.
Openly gay Councilman Joe Santiago who backed the creation of the registry questioned the resolve of the ministers, saying he was uncertain how well organized the group was.
“There are activists out there that are just vehemently against such measures,” Santiago told 'On Top Magazine'. “They have a perception that this is part of a gay agenda, the start of a process to allow for gay marriage. And that's just not true. ... The registry benefits both gay and straight couples.”
The ministers say they oppose the registry on religious grounds.
“That lifestyle goes against God,” Matthews told a 'Plain Dealer' reporter.
Source: On Top Magazine