Lifestyle & Belief

One pastor is fighting for gay rights in Michigan


Helaine Gawlica stands with a spray painted message on her body during a march and rally following the California Supreme Court's ruling to uphold Proposition 8 May 26, 2009 in San Francisco, California. Civil rights for the LGBT community has largely fell to the states with anti-discrimination and legal rights for gays and lesbians largely varying statewide.


Justin Sullivan

A reverend may be an unlikely person when thinking of LGBT advocates, but one pastor from the Midwest is doing just that.

Bill Freeman, a minister in Holland, Mich., has turned the town’s weekly city council meetings into a platform to push local officials to amend current anti-discrimination laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

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"I think the only thing that might get [the council members] to change their mind is national attention,” Freeman told NPR

Holland’s city council members rejected amending their local anti-discrimination law to include gender identity or sexual orientation in June. Michigan laws do not protect residents from discrimination based on sexuality or gender identity.

Several council members stated the matter was a social issue, and therefore, should not be a decision the local leaders should make.

NPR reported: “A number of Holland business owners have said they don't want to hire someone who is gay or transgender, much the same as they wouldn't want to hire someone covered with tattoos. "The fact of the matter is, as a land owner, as a business owner, you also have rights," says Polly Cohen, a landlord in Holland. "I have the right to say, 'I don't want a smoker living in my duplex.' "

The gay and lesbian civil rights movement in the US has largely been a patchwork, with laws varying by state.

There is currently no federal recognition of same-sex marriage or laws making employment discrimination against LGBT people illegal.

Roughly half of the US have employment anti-discrimination laws in place protecting sexual orientation with a handful including protecting gender identity. Same-sex marriage in America is far less recognized.

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This year had milestones for the LGBTQ community, however.

New York became the sixth and largest state in the US in June to allow same-sex marriage. There are currently 29 states that define marriage as between a man and a woman and 12 that outright define it as illegal. 

Just months later, the repeal of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy was a cause for celebration for gays and lesbians serving in the military.