Meet the Leaders
While everyone’s voice is important, we want to highlight the three who have been working tirelessly to research, meet with other community leaders, work with the ACLU, and ensure that the LGBTQ+ community and its allies stay up-to-date on anything related to the proposed changes to Holland’s Non-Discrimination Ordinance.
- Sara Van Tongeren, LMSW, is a local therapist located in downtown Holland. Sara has openly expressed her support and willingness to accept LGBTQ+ patients, and has worked for several years to research City Council procedures and non-discrimination ordinances.
- Jeffrey Sorensen is Out On The Lakeshore’s first Director and oversees all programming, events, the PRIDE Celebration, and relationships with the community. Jeffrey has a strong marketing and public relations background and is using this to communicate with key stakeholders and acts as the the main spokesperson for OOTL and this movement.
- Rev. Jen Adams is the Rector at Grace Episcopal Church in Holland, and is a founding board member of both Holland is Ready and Out On The Lakeshore. Jen was a leader of the movement to change the non-discrimination ordinance back in 2011 and brings a wealth of experience and vital knowledge of LGBTQ+ issues.
What’s happened so far?
On 12/18/2019, Rev. Jen Adams (Founder of Holland is Ready), Jeff Sorensen (Director of Out On The Lakeshore), and Sara Van Tongeren (psychotherapist), as well as many other community members, presented a formal request to City Council to amend the city’s non-discrimination ordinance to (a) include the language “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” under the protected groups, and (b) provide protection for all of the groups for employment.
At the city council meeting on 01/08/2020, Council member Mike Trethewey made a motion that directed the City Attorney to begin the process to explore what it would look like to amend the city’s non-discrimination ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The council voted unanimously (9-0) to begin this process. In fact, this was the point that it was voted against 5-4 in 2011.
The next step is that the City Attorney, Ron VanderVeen, will research surrounding areas ordinances and present various options to the City Council at a study session on 03/25/2020. The City Council will then review and discuss the various options and potentially vote based on his recommendations on 3/25/2020. The vote could include further direction to the City Attorney (such as draft an ordinance or revise language). If there is a recommendation for an ordinance change, this would require two different votes: the first being on 04/01/2020 and the second being 04/15/2020.
How you can help?
Many members of council said what changed their minds were the demeanor and spirit of the people that made the request on 12/18/2019: that we were local, invested in our community, and wanted our community to be a better place. Many were moved by how the request was made and the continued spirit of the LGBTQ community here in Holland. It is important that you continue to voice your support and ask your friends and loved ones to keep writing Council & the City Manager to share your personal stories. If you would like to speak to City Council at one of the meetings, please talk to OOTL Director, Jeff, and he can let you know how you can help.
What is the policy now?
- The City of Holland Housing Ordinance is currently designed “to assure equal opportunity to all persons to live in adequate housing facilities, regardless of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, marital status or source of income and to that end to prohibit discrimination in housing.” (Ord. No. 1341, 7-17-2002, Sec 14-5)
What would change?
- Adding gender identity and sexual orientation as protected against discrimination for housing
- Expanding non-discrimination protections for employment for all protected groups
What would not change?
- The Process: How to file a complaint remains the same. Currently, the Human Relations Commission (HRC) handles all complaints for discrimination covered under the current ordinance. By amending the ordinance, there is no additional work or procedure that is required on behalf of the commission or the city. If it is a housing complaint, the HRC would refer it to Michigan Department of Civil Rights, and if it is an employment complaint, the HRC would refer it to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
- Religious Freedom: This ordinance does not change any aspect of religious freedom. Churches and other religious organizations can hire whomever they see as the best fit.
- Existing Protected Groups: The protections for all of the other existing named groups remain intact.
Why do this now?
- The current Michigan Civil Rights Commission interprets the Elliott-Larson civil rights act of 1976 to include sexual orientation and gender identity. Currently, this expanded interpretation on a federal level is being heard in the Supreme Court. By Holland expanding its non-discrimination ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity, we are aligning ourselves with current practices in Michigan and affirming our place as a welcoming community. By doing this now, Holland has the opportunity to set a standard of inclusion for all.
[Check back to this page for updates as more information is available regarding the NDO.]