The LGBT community in Lansing, Flint, Detroit - even Traverse City - is all part of Kalamazoo. At least that's what supporters of the city's anti-discrimination ordinance believe.
The proposed ordinance would protect LGBT people from discrimination in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodations. Passed twice unanimously by the City Commission, it was rescinded both times due to signatures gathered by opponents and eventually forced onto the ballot.
Since then, the fight to encourage voters to keep the ordinance on the books come Nov. 3 has exploded. Every day, volunteers at One Kalamazoo - which heads up the effort - take and make calls to citizens of the city to ask for support. Every weekend, they are on the front porches, ringing doorbells and making sure that voters are as well informed as possible.
They opened their offices in early September, and have announced a steering committee that includes local PFLAG Kalamazoo President Narda Beauchamp, Rev. Matthew Laney of the First Congregational United Church of Christ and former, current and hopeful members of the City Commission.
"We look forward to continuing a public conversation about the importance of protecting all hardworking Kalamazoo residents," said Jon Hoadley, campaign manager for One Kalamazoo. "Everyone should have the chance to earn a living, provide a safe home for their families and otherwise enjoy what Kalamazoo has to offer without fear of being treated differently or unfairly."
The campaign has brought grassroots efforts to the forefront of its battle in unique ways: an online survey that decided the design of their lawn signs; canvassing opportunities that can be accomplished from one's home; use of social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook for purposes of spreading updates about the campaign.
As of Oct. 20, their Facebook page had almost 3,000 fans.
And though the ordinance would only apply to housing, employment and accommodations in Kalamazoo, help has come to the west Michigan city from all across the state.
For some, like activist and former Michigan Equality Chair Derek Smiertka, it was just something that needed to be done.
"This is something we should do," the White Lake resident said on the eve of his One Kalamazoo canvassing experience. "There should be no such thing as a non-political gay or lesbian person. We should all be deeply involved and feel very concerned about what happens to our friends in Kalamazoo because it will happen to our friends in Lansing and in Detroit and in South Lyon. ... Unless we get involved and help, there's not going to be people who will come and help us when we need it."
Currently, the campaign is working to raise enough money to keep running their pro-ordinance commercial on local TV stations. The ad has run 25 times with $2,500 raised just for that endeavor, and now they're shooting for 50 runs. They're also encouraging more people to canvass and to write letters to the editor of the Kalamazoo Gazette in support of the ordinance.
"We're all hoping and looking for more political victories in our state," he said. "I think a lot of us are feeling pretty kicked and down and we need a victory. It's for the sake of Kalamazoo, but it's also just a message to be sent across the state that not everybody is against us."
To read the entire article, click here.
Click here to see PFLAG Kalamazoo President Narda Beauchamp explain why this ordinance is important to her and her family.