Holland, Michigan, a conservative tourist town best known for its popular May tulip festival*, is now gaining a different kind of fame. NPR reports that local pastor Bill Freeman is pushing the city to change its anti-discrimination laws to include protections for LGBT people.

Federal and Michigan laws protect residents from discrimination in housing and employment, but not based on a person’s sexuality or gender identity, and Holland’s city council rejected modifying the local anti-discrimination law with those specifications. Freeman, married and a father of two, has appeared before the council several times since, urging the council to revisit that decision.

“I think the only thing that might get [the council members] to change their mind is national attention. Not the kind of attention that the City of Holland would like to have when holidays come up and Tulip Time comes up,” Freeman says, referring to the city’s annual tulip festival.

I love it: a media-savvy pastor in reddest Michigan who’s on our side. God bless you, Pastor Bill. NPR’s headline calls Freeman and his coalition “Unlikely Advocates,” a sad comment on how no one expects Christians to defend LGBT people (see also our Kristin Chenoweth blog entry). To learn more about actions in Holland, visit Until Love is Equal, a grassroots organization in Western Michigan dedicated to overturning the Holland law.

Let’s give Holland our attention by respectfully e-mailing members of the Holland City Council, encouraging them to reconsider their position on this ordinance. (See the end of this entry** for a list of members’ addresses.) Gently encourage Holland’s city council members to meet and mingle with LGBT people, and remind them that the nation and its many tourists are taking a keen interest in the decisions Holland is making about its citizens.

If that doesn’t work, of course, there’s always the possibility of a boycott. The gay mecca of Saugatuck, Michigan is just down the coast from Holland, and no doubt many people visit both towns, but why should LGBT people and their allies patronize a town that currently treats them as second-class citizens?

* Half a million attendees each year, according to Tulip Time’s offices.

** n.deboer@cityofholland.com, m.trethewey@cityofholland.com, j.peters@cityofholland.com, b.burch@cityofholland.com, b.vandevusse@cityofholland.com, t.whiteman@cityofholland.com, d.hoekstra@cityofholland.com, s.miller@cityofholland.com