More than a name

On May 13, the merged Triangle Foundation/Michigan Equality announced its new agency name - Equality Michigan - in a videoconference. Over 50 people signed on to hear the announcement, but let's be honest: It's not about the name.

Ever hear the saying "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet?" Well, in this case, a statewide LGBT agency, by whatever name it chooses to call itself, has an obligation to act in the interest of the community it serves and effectively use funds, volunteers and legislative pull to gain rights and promote equality. Not quite as catchy of a saying, but you get the idea.

And in the case of Equality Michigan, they're off to a sweet start.

We're thrilled to see the effort the new agency is putting into getting as much community involvement as possible - from as varied a base as possible - involved in every aspect of the reconfiguration of their organization. Their endeavors to hear voices from LGBT people all across the state is a great way to walk the walk when it comes to their talk about being a truly "statewide" organization.

But even more than listening to the community, announcements of their mission and goals for the future of LGBT Michigan shows promise that they're going to guide it.

In 2004, Michigan gays and lesbians were dealt a huge blow with Proposal 2, which prohibited any recognition of our relationships by the state. Our efforts following the passage of Proposal 2 have been largely reactionary. We spent years trying to overturn the law and ensure that our domestic partnership benefits would not be lost. Efforts ended poorly in the Michigan Supreme Court's final decision

Having marriage taken away from our community before we even had a chance to ask for it was devastating. But we must move on.

With Equality Michigan, we hope to do just that.

How refreshing it was to hear goals clearly laid out by Executive Director Alicia Skillman and board chair Denise Brogan-Kator: A statewide non-discrimination policy within three years. Marriage equality efforts to follow. Anti-bullying legislation (we hope) within 2010.

Being a statewide organization isn't just about having offices and staff members in Kalamazoo and Lansing and the Upper Peninsula; it's about listening to all voices and guiding our efforts in a cohesive, collective manner.

No more being reactive - Michigan LGBTs need to be proactive. No more divisiveness - we need to be unified in our efforts.

And most of all, we hope to see that Equality Michigan lives up to their promises and continues to put people before agency. The objectives announced are no petty matters, and we plan to hold them to every single one.

But as Denise Brogan-Kator noted, none of the agency's goals can be accomplished without the continued effort of each and every LGBT Michigander. Because they're not Equality Michigan's goals - they're our goals. And our statewide agency is here to help us achieve them, not to tell us what we need and want. Now we have to help them, too. So find a way to be a small, medium or large part of the solution by staying engaged and becoming more involved.

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