Letters from Holland High School students to members of Until Love Is Equal movement:
"You come to every city meeting. You are HEROS. Never forget that please. Feel the love. It's real. We love you for what you are doing for us. We see the meetings on the internet. It means everything to me. Don't stop. Please. ____ HHS GSA
"Thank you for standing up for this cause & not giving up thorough-out all of the hate you've recently been getting. You're quite amazing for everything you do. So, this is just a letter of love saying you're greatly appreciated and we love you. Love, ____ HHS GSA"
"Thank you for Leading rallies and speaking in the council. Ignore the hate mail it's just people who are afraid of what they don't understand. Keep up your great work never give [up] if you are capable of changing this homophobic community so that they won't discremenate [sic] against them do your best and don't listen to these haters. I have few words, but at least I can probably help encourage you to continue. Love, ____ HHS GSA
"Thank you so much for fighting against the system. I am inspired by you! You are doing wonderful things in our community and I want you to know that you aren't alone in the battle for gay rights. My fellow members of Holland High School and I are fighting right alongside you and we will never give up. Keep doing what you do, ____ HHS GSA
"I heard that you have been getting a lot of hate mail. So here's a bit of positive, love mail (: This summer I attended the march to city hall. It was absolutely amazing. This is an issue that needs to be addressed and taken care of. I know that if we keep fighting for what's right it'll come to us. Thank you so much for supporting the LGBT community. You are truly inspirations. Love, ____ HHS GSA"
"We came to the march and I joined GSA. I am straight, but that march changed my life. I only want to make a difference now because you showed us that we can do something. Thank you. Us kids love you for that. [Peace] ____ HHS GSA"
"You are making a difrence [sic] to me. I am a gay kid and my parents don't know about it. It helps me a lot to know that there is parents who are not giving up on this battle to win rights for me. I appreciate what you are doing for all of us. I [...] the hating and remember us kids. God bless you. With Love, ____ HHS GSA"
Other articles by the same author
Other articles by this author
A half year ago today, five council members in Holland rejected an anti-discrimination ordinance recommended by the city's Human Relations Commission (HRC), a mayoral-appointed body. Holland City Council itself had requested the ordinance language. The HRC spent a year studying the issue and recommended unanimously: Holland needed this ordinance.
Holland City Council's June 15 no vote preserved employers' and landowners' rights to refuse jobs and housing to those who appear to be gay.
Many in West Michigan reacted with surprise and disappointment. Several other West Michigan municipalities have anti-discrimination protections for LGBT residents and workers, including Grand Rapids, which adopted a similar ordinance in 1994.
In addition, virtually every corporation that does business internationally has extremely progressive benefits and protections packages for LGBT employees and their partners - because other nations' corporations won't do business with them otherwise. Holland and Zeeland are home to a number of the region's most important companies.
But it's not just about the economy.
"West Michigan has this largely undeserved reputation as a conservative or intolerant region, which is especially untrue here in Grand Rapids," said Until Love Is Equal member Kim Crawford. "But people see us as a region, so it's like a black eye for all of us."
American urban studies professor Richard Florida correlates a connection between an area's tolerance and the number of the creative class who live and work there. Grand Rapids, whose lawmakers protect its LGBT residents and workers, has defined itself as an international pioneer in arts and culture, and West Michigan benefits as a whole.
"West Michigan cities are uniquely interconnected," said ArtPeers Board President Erin Wilson, also a member of Until Love Is Equal. "We have this magnificently inter-dependent relationship, and we have to be there for one another."
Among the five Holland lawmakers who voted no, several said this could be a great opportunity for public discussion and examination of the issue, perhaps eventually leading to a public ballot initiative.
"This is not some academic experiment," Crawford said. "This is about what lawmakers are elected to do: prevent harm, protect people, move their cities forward. Five lawmakers in Holland failed on all three counts and now we're picking up the pieces."
Wilson said it's unsound, and notably unprecedented, for the majority to vote on the rights of a minority.
"There's no context for any of this," said Wilson, who moved to Grand Rapids from New York City in 2001. "Sometimes I can't even believe we're having this conversation. And this is right next door: the distance between us is a few songs on the radio and a gallon of gasoline."
But there is reason for hope.
Until Love Is Equal is a grassroots organization based in West Michigan, dedicated to the protection of personal liberty and full civil rights regardless of sexual orientation.
Reports on: Human Rights