Holland group fighting for anti-discrimination laws accepts social justice award

Jan 18, 2012

A community organization in Holland has accepted an award from the city after unsuccessfully lobbying for an anti-discrimination law there.

Holland Is Ready formed in early 2010 after Hope College stopped an openly gay filmmaker from discussing his movie on campus. The group also helped lead a campaign to outlaw discrimination in housing and employment for people who are gay or transgender. In June the Holland City Council rejected the ordinance in a 5 to 4 vote.

Reverend Jen Adams accepted Holland’s social justice award Wednesday night on the group’s behalf. She also noted the irony of the award coming from the same city that rejected its request.     

“We might in fact be the only group ever who in one six month time period were first denied the rights we requested and were then celebrated by the city for our efforts in seeking those rights,” Adams laughed. Dozens of people joined her in the audience; all including Adams wearing new white sweatshirts with the Holland Is Ready logo.

 “We smile not only because there is a little humor here and that’s okay and good, but we smile also because there is hope here,” Adams said. “That’s the message that we want to send.”

The award is voted on by the city’s Human Relations Commission. The commission recommended that city council adopt the ordinance after a year of studying the issue.

 Al Serrano is Holland’s Human Relations Coordinator.  Serrano says the award is for the group’s ongoing efforts to educate the community about a divisive issue in a non-confrontational way. “They came and they were civil at the city council presentations about an issue sometimes that can be very, very hot in the sense that people get very emotional about it,” Serrano said.

He was disappointed that city council turned down the Human Relation Commission’s unanimous recommendation to adopt the anti-discrimination rules. “If city council doesn’t agree to change their mind and approve the recommendation, than hopefully this group will then do a ballot initiative and put it before the community and find out really if Holland is ready,” Serrano said.

“We look forward to the day when – beyond the award – the protections and rights themselves are being granted to LGBT people and Holland can more fully claim its identity as a welcoming, safe, productive home for us all,” Adams closed.

At the very end of the meeting, newly elected city councilman Wayne Klomparens suggested the council reconsider its vote at some point in the future. In November Klomparens replaced a councilman who voted for the anti-discrimination ordinance (so I don’t see a change in the 5 to 4 vote).