A Michigan pastor has become an unlikely advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights after urging his municipality to adopt laws that would protect citizens against discrimination based on sexual orientation.
As NPR is reporting, Pastor Bill Freeman is pressing the city of Holland to amend anti-discrimination legislation to prevent residents from getting fired or kicked out of their homes because they are LGBT. Freeman, chaplain of Holland’s Interfaith Congregation and a married father of two, has appeared before the Holland city council on several occasions after officials first rejected modifying the laws June 15 with those specifications.
"I'm an eternal optimist. I mean, I stay around to the end of these meetings hoping somebody will say, 'You know, Freeman makes a good point. I'll change my vote,'" Freeman, who faces a $500 fine and up to 90 days in the county jail because he refused to leave Holland City Hall in an "Occupy Wall Street"-like move after an October meeting, told NPR. Freeman, who says he planned to live and sleep inside the municipal building until city council members reconsidered their votes, even likened himself to Martin Luther King Jr. "Sometimes, I think the only thing you can do is civil disobedience," he is quoted by The Holland Sentinel as saying. "I don’t know what else to do. I’ve tried everything else."
Freeman joins local group Until Love is Equal in the fight against LGBT discrimination. "I think Holland is a very tough community to get anything to change,” Genevieve Perry, one member, told Michigan Radio. "All of these conservative, more structured ideas are really hard to change."
Still, many locals who continue to vote against the law say such decisions are social matters and, as such, shouldn't rest with the council. "The fact of the matter is, as a land owner, as a business owner, you also have rights," Polly Cohen, a landlord in Holland, is quoted as saying. "I have the right to say, 'I don't want a smoker living in my duplex.'"
Meanwhile, Freeman has vowed to continue the fight. “The majority should not decide rights for the minority," he told the Detroit Free Press.
View a public service announcement for Until Love Is Equal Below: