Equality-Supporting County Clerks Among Catalyst Award Winners

By Crystal Proxmire

DETROIT- Equality Michigan will honor several people for their work advancing human rights at the Equality Michigan Dinner Feb. 22 at Motor City Casino. The dinner has been moved up to spring due to feedback and demand, says Executive Director Emily Dievendorf, and is being held at Motor City Casino for the first time.

Among those being honored will be two county clerks who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in working to recognize same-sex marriage. Lisa Brown of Oakland County and Barb Byrum of Ingham County Clerk stand ready to issue marriages licenses to same sex couples if there is a window of opportunity following the DeBoer v. Snyder case. Brown is listed as a defendant in the case, where two Hazel Park women are suing the county and the state for the right to jointly adopt their children and to marry. Brown brought in independent council to represent the Clerk's Office so that she could argue on behalf of the couple.

"Equality Michigan is thrilled that Michigan's elected officials continue to come out in support of equality," said Dievendorf. "Not only do we need their support to achieve victories, but their support sends a powerful message to Michigan's LGBT communities that they are both welcome in Michigan and important to the people we have elected to represent us."

Brown and Byrum will be presented with Catalyst Awards. Other winners include individuals and organizations from across Michigan that have positively impacted and promoted the mission of Equality Michigan.

The Award Goes To...

Badlands Strategy will receive the first-ever Catalyst Partner in Progress Award for engaging in behind-the-scenes work that too often gets overlooked. Badlands has played a major role in organizing the Unity Michigan Coalition since its inception, and recently performed many essential tasks for the One Royal Oak campaign.

Megan Bauer will receive the Henry D. Messer Youth Activist Award for emerging as a powerful force in Michigan's LGBT equality movement. As the Kalamazoo Gay and Lesbian Resource Center's community engagement coordinator since late 2012, she has had an impact not only in the Kalamazoo area, but all across Michigan. Beginning with KGLRC's I Commit Campaign, she has continued to foster civic engagement and grow the LGBT equality movement. Last fall spent weeks away from home helping make the One Royal Oak campaign a success. A Kalamazoo College graduate, she has worked with Habitat for Humanity as an AmeriCorps volunteer and with Queers for Economic Justice in New York.

Dusty Farmer will receive a Catalyst Award for playing a pivotal role in the recent passage of Oshtemo Township's LGBT inclusive non-discrimination ordinance. As an Oshtemo Township Trustee she took the initiative to not only introduce the ordinance, but see it through to a successful outcome. After being elected in November 2012, she immediately showed her public support for LGBT equality and began discussing the ordinance at her first meeting.

KICK The Agency for LGBT African Americans will receive this year's Heather MacAllister Catalyst Award for long-term commitment to equality and promoting intersectional work by serving Detroit's African American LGBT communities since 1994. Led by their founder and executive director, Curtis Lipscomb, this year alone KICK led a successful "LGBT In The 'D'" ad campaign, LEAD Academies developing local leaders, and educated Detroit voters with candidate forums and community panels. The organization has played a vital role in LGBT outreach, service, and advocacy in Detroit, and will be a major player in the upcoming marriage equality campaign.

Hank Milbourne is receiving the first-ever HIV Advocacy Catalyst Award for his years of service to people living with HIV in Michigan. Currently the chief program officer at AIDS Partnership Michigan, he has fought stigma, discrimination, racism and homophobia quietly through his own example since 1990. Hank was instrumental in the creation of the REC Boyz program to empower and support young gay men of color, and he served for eight years as the president of Detroit's Black Pride Society.

"Equality Michigan is proud to be honoring some of the people whose work this past year had such an amazingly positive impact on our efforts to bring full equality to all Michiganders," said Dievendorf.

The dinner event includes a reception, silent auction, remarks by community leaders, and the presentation of this year's Catalyst Awards. Tickets and more information are available online at www.equalitymi.org/dinner or by calling 313-537-7000.

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