Hazel Park couple will be back in court Feb. 25 hoping for a decision See next page that allows them to legally adopt their children together and to marry.

Michigan: A Look At 2013

By Crystal Proxmire

A lot happened in 2013 in terms of LGBT rights. While equality still has not come to Michigan, the state experienced tremendous progress. Organizations are working together in an unprecedented way, such as the efforts of Unity Michigan and Equality Michigan in fighting for local human rights ordinances, with community centers across the state forming the Community Center Network, and with AIDS Service Organizations joining forces for better care and resource management. There have been some leadership changes, some new programs launched, and some court cases both in the state and nationally that have impacted LGBT residents.

Case For Adoption And Marriage

A major development in Michigan is the case of DeBoer v. Snyder, wherein a Hazel Park lesbian couple is suing the State of Michigan and Oakland County for the right to jointly adopt their children. The case has also been amended to include the right to marry. If U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman rules in their favor, it could change the rights of LGBT people through the state. The trial is scheduled for Feb. 2014, and no matter the outcome, it is expected to be appealed. Both sides are bringing in top witnesses from around the country in what is expected to be a comprehensive look at both sides of the rights being fought for.

- Human Rights Ordinances

The movement to implement local human rights ordinances accelerated, with at least nine municipalities this year passing them. Royal Oak was the only city where the ordinance was blocked by a petition and put to a public vote. The proposal passed, but came at a price tag of over $113,000 in campaign costs. Other cities passed ordinances by a council or commission vote, including Pleasant Ridge, Oshtemo Township, and Linden.

Human rights ordinances protect people in the specific communities and show the state that people increasingly want fairness for everyone. "Until the state legislature amends the Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity gay and transgender people are left without any legal protections against discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations," said Jon Hoadley of Unity Michigan. "These ordinances remedy that by providing protections on the local level and showing what polling already finds; treating people fairly and equally reflects the values of our state, in every part of our state." Hoadley has been leading the way along with LEAD (Local Electeds Against Discrimination) and support from Equality Michigan and other organizations.

Volunteers for the One Royal Oak team. The voters approved a non discrimination ordinance in November making Royal Oak the 30th municipality to approve one in the state.

Community Center Network

The Community Center Network grew out of collaborative activities in 2012, and moved forward this year with the Shore 2 Shore Ride for Equality. They also had discussions around the marriage movement in the state. Affirmations, Detroit Latin@z, The Jim Toy Center, Kalamazoo Gay and Lesbian Resource Center, KICK, The Network of Western Michigan and Perceptions of Saginaw Valley are among the centers that meet regularly to strategize coordinated efforts and events.

Orgs Move Forward

Equality Michigan welcomed back Gregory Varnum at the end of 2012 to lead communications and development, and Emily Dievendorf rose to the spot of managing director in April. They're also brought on a strong director of victim's services, Yvonne Siferd, who started in January.

Affirmations Board President Mark Blanke described achievements of the Ferndale-based community center, saying, "As the end of 2013 approaches, Affirmations continues to strengthen its financial footing and will end the year strong. Affirmations will be celebrating 25 years of community service next year and will continue to strengthen its financial footing to propel the organization into the next 25 years of service." Affirmations expanded services with an increase in mental health services, social events and youth programming. Usage of the community center building increased in 2013 as more groups claimed it as a place to meet and organize.

The Center is also preparing to say goodbye to Executive Director Dave Garcia who is expected to leave in February. Facilities Manager Jon Fitzgerald will serve as the interim director as the Affirmations board conducts a search.

KICK, the Agency for LGBT African Americans continues to see growth in their LEAD training class for young community leaders, their Talk Tuesdays discussion groups, their Annual Health Expo, Hotter Than July and other groups and events.

AIDS Partnership Michigan and Michigan AIDS Coalition have seen leadership changes recently, with APM appointing William VanHemert to the director position in February, and MAC naming Terry Ryan after Helen Hicks left at the end of 2012. Together they have come up with ideas for collaboration between their organizations and others across the state. For MAC, Ryan said, "Our biggest accomplishment has been the ability to continue providing quality services for people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS in the face of still declining sources of revenue. Second best accomplishment was our best ever DIFFA sponsored Dining By Design, and connecting with new people willing to help us."

Ruth Ellis Center also got new leadership this year. Gerry Peterson came in the middle of the year from California to take on the task of managing the Detroit area's only LGBT youth housing project, and the drop in center.

"This year, Ruth Ellis Center worked with more than 500 unique youth from Detroit and Southeast MI and provided over 4,700 service contacts in the Drop In Center alone," Peterson said. "2013 also marked an expansion of our mental health contract to serve youth ages 7-24 through CareLink. Additionally, we ensured the pipeline of LGBTQ youth of color to leadership through our graduation of 25 summer interns, and facilitated our 'Trans*Justus' retreats, one of the only programs in the country geared specifically toward health, safety and positive gender identity for African-American Transgender youth."

The Gender Identity Network Alliance went through a major change by transitioning from Transgender Detroit to GINA this year. The change was announced in Nov. 2012, and this year the group focused on redefining their mission and growing their audience. Key events included Transgender Day of Empowerment, Transgender Day of Remembrance and the creation of a hormone counseling program through Affirmations.

Kalamazoo Gay and Lesbian Resource Center had a nice accomplishment this year with Executive Director Zach Bauer being selected into an Arcus leadership program. They've also helped pass local human rights ordinances, and created a guide to long-term care planning for the LGBT Community.

The Network of Western Michigan also saw a leadership change, with Christina Wade officially taking on the role of executive director in June. Wade stepped up as a volunteer in Oct. 2013 after long time director Pat Ward suffered a stroke. In just a few short months, Wade managed to increase participation in many of the center's programs and support groups. "The biggest accomplishment in 2013 for The Network is the growth of our Youth group, which averages around 25-30 youth during their meetings and also our new group called "Own Your Gender" which also averages around 20-25 members," said Wade.

The Michigan Project for Informed Public Policy gained volunteers and resources thanks to a new partnership with Affirmations. With an emphasis on sharing psychological research, educating mental health professionals, and teaching people to share their stories while also giving them emotional support, MPIPP is quickly becoming a known name in the realm of LGBT research. "A big accomplishment in 2012 was learning that MPIPP's Know Us Project addresses a need among straight allies - people who support equality but don't become actively involved because they don't know what to do. KUP helps them tell their ally stories and figure out how to become activists," said MPIPP's Judith Kovach.

Growth Of Pride And Other Events

Pride celebrations grew throughout Michigan. This year there were at least ten across the state. Motor City Pride, in Detroit's Hart Plaza for the third year, brought tens of thousands downtown and for the first time had national entertainment with Ana Matronic on the Pride Stage. West Michigan Pride celebrated their 25th year with a grand event at Calder Plaza in Grand Rapids, and in August NE Michigan got their first pride with the Harrisville Equality Fest. Ferndale Pride is also poised for change as longtime activist Craig Covey stepped down and turned over leadership of the festival to Julia Music.

Domestic Partner Benefits

Domestic partner benefits have been a contested issue in Michigan since Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette determined that state employees should not be allowed to have them based on Michigan's constitutional ban on same sex relationship recognition. However, two years later, in May 2013 the Michigan Supreme Court ruled the benefits were allowed to stay.

Corporations in Michigan continued to recognize the value of same-gender relationship recognition and support for transgender employees. Lear announced adding domestic partnership benefits this year, and all three major auto companies began recognizing out-of-state marriages for their employee benefits.


Comics

Theater

like us on facebook follow us on twitter follow us on google+