It’s time, Holland! Let’s make Holland an inclusive and diverse community by protecting all who live and work here.
What’s happened so far?
- On 12/18/2019, Rev. Jen Adams (Founder of Holland is Ready), Jeffrey 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.
- City Attorney, Ron VanderVeen, researched surrounding areas ordinances and presented various options to the City Council at a study session on July 8.150+ people showed up in support of Holland’s diversity outside of the Study Session, and 660 people signed our online letter in support of an ordinance. We are thrilled by these numbers and can’t thank the community enough for the support!
The Study Session itself was filled with discussions of both an ordinance and a policy. We encourage you to view the recorded meeting by clicking the below link. The big discussion begins at 1:54:31, however there are several public comments at the beginning of the meeting that you may like to hear as well.
- July 8 Study Session Recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fo_WoHYurNs
On July 15, the Council is deciding between a “policy” and an “ordinance”
- We want an ordinance, ensuring legal protections.
- They will vote Wednesday, July 15 at 6:30p if it is going to be an ordinance or a policy. If the council votes in favor of an ordinance, then this meeting would also serve as the “first reading” and would require a second vote, possibly as soon as Aug 5th.
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 to share your personal stories. If you would like to speak to City Council at one of the meetings or would like to assist in another way, we encourage you to speak with OOTL Director, Jeff, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org to help determine how you can help.
Join us at City Hall on Wednesday, July 15 at 6:30pm for the City Council meeting in which they will discuss the Non-Discrimination options of a “policy” or an “ordinance.” We will demonstrate solidarity within the community in support for protecting not only our LGBTQ+ neighbors and family, but ALL who live and work in Holland. We ask that all who attend wear masks, and remain at least 6ft apart from others. Supporters are encouraged to make signs with phrases like “We ALL get to live here” or “We ALL get to work here,” and wear bright rainbow colors.
While Public Comment will be available at council meetings with social distance enforced, you also have the option to email your comments to the City Council at publiccomment@cityofholland.
com if you are not comfortable entering City Hall or cannot attend. All council members will receive your comments.
Please share this information with your friends, family, and neighbors to help us spread the word! Feel free to share this page through social media or email!
What is the current ordinance?
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 do we hope to 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 (MDCR), and if it is an employment complaint, the HRC would refer it to either the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the MDCR, depending on the size of the organization.
- 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 for any employment positions that are ministerial in nature.
- 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 making it clear that LGBTQ+ people are protected against discrimination and better alligning with federal courts and the Michigan Civil Rights Commission. By doing this now, Holland has the opportunity to set a standard of inclusion for all.
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 psychotherapist located in downtown Holland who specializes working with women and LGBTQ+ clients. Sara has devoted her career to helping empower people to find their voice and live into the reality of their true selves. For many years, she has been working behind the scenes, building relationships with City Council and networking with people in Holland in order to develop affirming procedures and better more inclusive 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 volunteered on several non-profit Boards and is passionate about helping others find the resources they need. He has a strong marketing and public relations background and is using this as the the main spokesperson for both OOTL and the Non-Discrimination Ordinance 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.