Kalamazoo faith leaders discuss LGBT issues at prayer breakfast

Feb 2, 2012

While the national prayer breakfast was happening in Washington this morning, faith leaders in Kalamazoo held their own prayer breakfast.

The group of leaders from different faiths discussed state laws affecting people who are lesbian, gay or transgender.

The Kalamazoo Gay Lesbian Resource Center helped organize the breakfast. Executive Director Zach Bauer says faith has meant two things to the LGBT community.

“It’s either been a source of fear and oppression or its been a source of strength. We want to ensure that we explore the positive side of faith traditions and how that can enrich LGBT people’s lives if they chose,” Bauer said.

Michigan recently passed a law that prohibits cities from offering health benefits to domestic partners of city workers. Eight people working for the city of Kalamazoo are affected by the change.

Debbie Eisenbise is pastor of the Skyridge Church of the Brethren in Kalamazoo. She’d like to see city leaders defy the new law and continue offering the benefits.

“You know Martin Luther King Jr. said if a law is unjust you do not assent to following that law. And it seems to me that this is an unjust and ridiculous law,” Eisenbise said.

Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell says as much as he disagrees with the new state law, the city will abide by it.

“We’re still communicating our concern. I still want to get some time with the governor asking him to sort of help me to understand how this reinvents Michigan,” Hopewell said.

The city’s attorney says officials would likely be fined and possibly taken to jail if they ignored the new law.

“How does what you define as a family bring jobs to the state?” Hopewell asked rhetorically of the group of about 50 people during a discussion of proposed legislation that would strip away Kalamazoo’s local ordinance protecting people from discrimination in housing and employment.

“It does the opposite when you mess with these things. When you tell a community ‘well we know you’ve got a human rights ordinance that means you love everybody but we don’t love everybody so therefore you can’t love everybody so we’re going to take that away from you so you no longer can love.” The group laughed at Hopewell’s impression.