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Despite trespassing conviction, Holland minister won’t rule out more civil disobedience

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Lindsey Smith
/
Michigan Radio
Rev. Bill Freeman reads from his copy of the U.S. Constitution during a packed public hearing on the proposed changes to the Holland city ordinance last year.

A Holland minister who’s been pushing for equal protection for gay, bisexual and transgender people says he’ll consider staging another protest. That’s in spite of a jury this week convicting him of trespassing for his first protest.

Reverend Bill Freeman is upset Holland City Council voted not to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the city’s anti-discrimination laws. One night last October Freeman decided to occupy city hall to try to get city council to change its mind and join more than a dozen other Michigan cities with similar laws. He was arrested for trespassing when the building was closed that evening.

“It’s time for the City of Holland to join the 21st century,” Freeman said, referencing changes to the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy and President Obama’s recent support of gay marriage. “The City of Holland knows what the right thing is and that is not to allow discrimination of anybody,” Freeman added.

Freeman could’ve gotten jail time. But the judge only fined him $100.

Still, Freeman says it’s not the outcome he wanted.

“As far as I know the City of Holland is still allowing the discrimination of people who are gay, lesbian bisexual and transgender. So no, I didn’t get what I wanted out of this. I wanted them to change their mind. I was hoping some bad publicity for the city would spur the city council to take this up again,” Freeman said.

The local laws would’ve prohibited discrimination in employment and housing. State law provides protection from discrimination based on race, religion and other factors but not sexual orientation or gender identity.

Holland city council meets next week. Freeman says he’s considering another protest, but will think about it over the weekend first.

“I’m not sure what to do,” Freeman said, “Hopefully it will be within the bounds of the law, but you never know.”

Lindsey Smith is Michigan Radio’s investigative reporter. She previously served as Michigan Radio’s Morning News Editor and West Michigan Reporter.
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