More than 150 supporters of an LGBT rights ordinance marched to City Hall in Holland, Mich., Wednesday evening to take their message to the City Council.
The council voted down the ordinance 5-4 in June, but supporters have vowed to keep campaigning for its passage and are considering putting the matter to a referendum.
Many of the marchers participated in a 90-minute public comment period during the council meeting. Several of them were young people who stressed their how important acceptance of LGBT people is to their generation, The Grand Rapids Press reports.
“A non-accepting community, in this day and age, will lose the support of its young population, and thus lose any hope of having a successful future,” said Tessa Perez, a 19-year-old University of Michigan student who shared a friend’s coming-out story.
Thomas Crisp, a Florida college professor who grew up in Holland, said he faced antigay harassment and discrimination in the city, to the point that he attempted suicide and later decided he had to relocate. “Lives are literally at stake,” he told the council. “Please don’t wait until someone is killed or kills [themselves] before you take action.”
Opponents of the ordinance spoke as well, including local minister Ralph Houston, who said that “giving public recognition to gay rights” is a sign of losing “our ability to discriminate between right and wrong.”
Council member Dave Hoekstra, who voted in favor of the ordinance, urged his colleagues to give serious consideration to citizens’ tales of discrimination. “If one person is afflicted, if one person is denied their God-given rights, that’s one too many,” he said, but he thought the council was probably not ready to vote on the matter again.
Mayor Kurt Dykstra said the lack of an ordinance doesn’t mean Holland isn’t accepting of all its residents. “I don’t think the measure of a community’s openness and welcomeness is dependent on the presence of an ordinance or not,” he said.