LGBT

Doug Rothwell is president and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan.
Business Leaders for Michigan.

There is a growing chorus in Michigan to stop employment discrimination against gays.

The latest challenge is coming from Business Leaders for Michigan.

As part of its 2014 Michigan Turnaround Plan, the group is challenging Michigan leaders to pass an anti-discrimination law that includes protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender workers.

Current state law does nothing to protect against this type of discrimination.

In Michigan, it is completely legal to discriminate against LGBT people.

Michigan Radio’s Lester Graham explained why this type of discrimination is legal in the state:

user Tyrone Warner / Flickr

DETROIT – A federal appeals court won't give special treatment to Michigan's dispute over gay marriage.

The court says the state's appeal of a decision overturning a ban on same-sex marriage will follow the usual course. The case will be heard by a three-judge panel, probably later this year.

Attorney General Bill Schuette wanted the full court to leapfrog the panel and take the appeal. But there's no interest from judges at the Cincinnati-based court.

A brief order unanimously rejecting Schuette's request was filed Monday.

More than 300 same-sex couples were married in March after a Detroit federal judge said Michigan's ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional. The appeals court has suspended the decision while the appeal is pending.

user Marlith / Flickr

Saginaw is putting off a decision about whether to have a citywide ban on discrimination based 

on sexual orientation or gender identity.  

The Saginaw Council chambers were packed to capacity, according to the Associated Press. 

But the council voted not to make a decision just yet. A few members said they wanted time to talk with the city's business and religious community.

But Councilwoman Annie Boensch says she thinks churches will support it, once they understand they're exempted from the ban.

antiochla.edu / Antioch University

There can be little doubt that we are living at a time when our attitudes as a society are undergoing a tremendous shift in what we think of individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

Recently, we spoke on this show with Michigan State University professor Charley Ballard, who directs the state of the state surveys. The most recent MSU survey found, for instance, that 54% of Michiganders support gay marriage, with 36% opposing it.

Just four years ago, gay marriage was opposed by 51% and favored by 48% of those surveyed.

That is the view from social science. But what about the view from the pulpit?

Ken Wilson is pastor of Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor. The evangelical minister has spent years wrestling with this question:  Where do we – as a Christian faith community – draw the line on the gay marriage issue?

His journey to rethinking his beliefs about where LBGT people fit into what he calls “the company of Jesus” is spelled out in his new book “A Letter to my Congregation:  An evangelical pastor's path to embracing people who are gay, lesbian and transgender into the company of Jesus.”

Listen to the full interview above. 

Everybody’s got a story.  Some are very extraordinary stories.  It might be a good for somebody to look into theirs, because a story is the shortest distance between two people.

The Living Room is our ongoing storytelling series, curated by Allison Downey.

This story is the first in our series about identity and acceptance in West Michigan’s LGBT community.

Rachel Gleason spent much of youth at her church; worshipping, studying, singing, babysitting.

The church was her life.

But that began to change when Rachel started to understand who she really was.

*Listen to Rachel’s story above.

Allison Downey curates stories for our ongoing series The Living Room. This story was produced by Zak Rosen. Support was provided by a Kalamazoo Community Foundation grant from the Fetzer Institute Fund.

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DETROIT – The state of Michigan's defense of a ban on gay marriage is off to a rocky start after a judge refused to allow the first witness to testify.

Sherif Girgis is a law student at Yale University and a doctoral candidate at Princeton University. He has written and talked about a historical defense of marriage between a man and a woman.

Federal Judge Bernard Friedman says Girgis will be an expert witness – someday. Friedman says Girgis' opinions won't help him decide this case.

Two Detroit-area women are challenging Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage, which was approved by voters in 2004.

The state attorney general's office is defending the amendment this week and asked for a break Monday to summon another witness.

We are one week, halfway through, the trial in federal court in Detroit centering on the challenge to Michigan’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. The arguments are supposed to go on for another week, and then we’ll wait for the judge’s decision. But the case’s mere existence, the fact that it’s occurring, is having an effect on the political landscape in Michigan.

And, it should be noted that these hearings are not taking place within a vacuum. Just this week we saw two more gay marriage rulings. Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage was struck down and Kentucky was ordered to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

There is also another federal case underway here in Michigan that is challenging the state’s refusal to allow live-in partner benefits for public employees. It’s the mechanism that was created to allow same-sex couples to use their benefits to cover partners and children who would otherwise be denied coverage under Michigan’s marriage amendment, approved by voters in a statewide election 10 years ago.

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If the pollsters are right, here’s something you probably don’t know:

It’s perfectly legal to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.

A Gallup poll reported nearly nine out of ten people think LGBT people are already protected.

They are not.

Actually, Arizona and Michigan are not that different right now.

Paul Sancya / Associated Press

In Michigan, if a homosexual couple adopts children, the legal rights to the children can only be assigned to one parent.

If something were to happen to the parent with legal rights, the child could be returned to foster care and the surviving parent would have no legal ground to get them back.

For couple Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer, who have three adopted children, this fear is one they have had to live with for years. 

Tomorrow, a federal court case will begin that could change things in Michigan.

There are more than 70 virtual currencies in the marketplace.

You may have heard of the biggest players: Bitcoin, Ripples, and Litecoin, which are taking out the middleman and reinventing the meaning of money. The idea is gaining momentum among college students. Today, we heard how virtual money is opening doors for young Michigan entrepreneurs.

Then, school districts around the nation and right here in Michigan are talking about ways to accommodate transgender students. The ACLU of Michigan's LGBT Project (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) is already working on model policies.

And we spoke with some talented Michigan musicians about how their EP (extended play recording) reached No. 2 on the iTunes electronic charts with virtually no promotion.

user Marlith / Flickr

How far should a school go to accommodate its transgender students? What federal or state laws and ordinances might impact policies for transgender students?

School districts around the nation are wrestling with these questions, even as parents and civil rights groups mount court challenges against districts whose policies are not supportive of transgender student rights.

The ACLU of Michigan's LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) Project is now crafting a comprehensive model policy for transgender students – a policy that could be adopted by local school districts. Jay Kaplan is a staff attorney who is part of this effort, and he joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

What discussions and conversations should we be having around Michigan that we are veering away from?

What's the price we're paying for not opening up and talking about hot-button issues like racism, poverty, food justice, LGBT rights, and so much more?

That's what our next guest asked herself, and that led her to co-found Deep Dive Detroit. Its mission is to "create a safe place for uncomfortable conversations between disparate groups."

Co-founder Lauren Hood joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Official legislative portrait

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - As the Republican National Committee prepares for meetings in Washington this week, Gov. Rick Snyder and other party leaders in Michigan are criticizing repeated anti-gay and anti-Muslim remarks by Committeeman Dave Agema.

The 64-year-old ex-state representative from western Michigan represents the state on the Republican party's national board.

Snyder made a semi-veiled reference to Agema in Thursday's State of the State speech, calling for civil discourse in the public arena.

The Republican angst over gay rights continues this week.

Driven and riven by the continuing commentary on the topic by Michigan’s Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema, in this case on AIDS and partner benefits. “Folks they want free medical because they’re dying between the ages of 30 and 44 years old… For me it’s a moral issue. It’s a biblical issue,” Agema told a local Republican holiday gathering last week in West Michigan (thanks to the Herald Palladium for audio of remarks).

And, as they often do, Agema’s comments have already gotten a lot of attention; inciting what has become a now-predictable ritual of condemnation from Democrats and Republicans. However, Republicans are complaining not so much about what Agema said but, instead, how he said it.

This is not the first time that Dave Agema has made comments like this. There is a history here. Agema has always made it plain he considers homosexuality to be nothing but a deviant lifestyle. His detractors say he’s a bigot. His supporters - and he certainly has them within the state Republican Party - say he’s a truth-teller. In fact, former state Representative Jack Hoogendyk, a prominent Tea Party leader, recently called him “a prophet.”

UM Press

What is “Ballroom Culture”? Well, a surface definition might be a culture that centers on a competition where black LGBT individuals dress, dance and vogue - competing for prizes and trophies.

But there is more to Ballroom Culture as my next guest spells out in his new book "Butch Queens Up In Pumps: Gender, Performance and Ballroom Culture in Detroit.”

Marlon Bailey is an Associate Professor of Gender Studies and American Studies at Indiana University. And he brings another perspective to his writing -- that of a black gay man who grew up in Detroit and who was deeply involved in Ballroom Culture.

Listen to the interview above.

You likely saw it unfold on Facebook earlier this year.

In late March, Facebook users began changing their profile pics to show their support for gay marriage.

Facebook tracked analyzed those changes and found that 2.77 million users in the United States made the switch - and the users who made the switch were more likely to live along the coasts or in the Great Lakes region.

Screenshot of the MEI / Human Rights Campaign

The Human Rights Campaign released their 2013 Municipal Equality Index (MEI). The index evaluated cities level of support for LGBT people despite state regulations and policies.

The index includes 291 cities, or 77,851,822 people.

Every state capitol was included, as well as the three largest cities in each state. The index also focused on municipalities with the largest public universities, and cities with high proportions of same-sex couples.

 

Lars Plougmann / Creative Commons

This Week in Michigan Politics Jack Lessenberry and Christina Shockley discuss some of the highlights from Tuesday's election, including the Detroit mayoral race, elections on LGBT issues, and proposals to decriminalize marijuana.

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

On Tuesday, Royal Oak will be the latest city in Michigan to decide whether discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender people should be illegal.

Both sides say it’s going to be thisclose, with voters split just about down the middle.

Opponents of the proposal are plenty motivated – just the fact that Royal Oak is having this vote is because of their hustle.

It’s their ability to collect more than the required 746 petitions that put this on the ballot in the first place.

Group says vote “no” to protect Royal Oak’s businesses

Local elections across Michigan are coming Tuesday. And, there are also some interesting races across the country. The results of which politicos and prognosticators will be mining for hints, tips, and adumbrations (yes, we really just did use the word “adumbrations”) of what Election 2014 may have in store.

Elections in 2013, like in 2014, will be in the off-presidential cycle, with similar dynamics in play. Here in Michigan, we’ll have big statewide races next year for governor and U.S. Senator, and two or three congressional races that could be hot.

So, for us, 2013 is a kind of scouting report, a chance to look for any developing trends. Similar to January 2010 when Republican Scott Brown’s Senate victory in super-blue Massachusetts was a preview of the November 2010 national GOP blow-out. Brown’s win was seen as an early indicator of the election to come.

This Tuesday we’ll be watching for anything that defies expectations.

Republican Chris Christie is expected to win reelection in New Jersey and Democrat Terry McAuliffe is expected to win in Virginia; a state that was once reliably conservative but has become purple as its demographics change.

We’ll be watching for both an upset and the margins of victory.

If it’s a blowout, Republican leaders in Michigan will use that as evidence to argue for a more centrist approach to campaigning in 2014: Be conservative, but appeal to the middle. That could make a difference not just in primaries next year, but also the Republican nominating convention - where Tea Partiers have been pretty dominant lately.

Watch Holland City Council candidates weigh in on everything from human rights, to public utilities to public safety at a League of Women Voters forum that took place earlier this month at city hall.

A municipal election in the City of Holland is rekindling a debate over laws to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination.

In June 2011, Holland City Council voted 5-4 against a proposal that would have made it illegal for landlords and employers to discriminate based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

“City council may not have dealt with this in any kind of public way in the last two and half years, but in the community it has never gone away,” Donald Martin said of the issue.

Martin is the first openly gay candidate running for Holland City Council. He’s lived in the city for ten years.

LGBT flag.
Guillaume Paumier / Flickr

Royal Oak will go to the polls on Nov. 5 to vote on  a ballot initiative that proposes adding a human rights ordinance to the city code. The measure is controversial because it calls for protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, among other groups.

Royal Oak's city code does not currently include a non-discrimination clause. The city relies on state and federal protections to prevent discrimination.

A new study found that students enrolled in online charter schools are not performing as well as students in traditional brick and mortar schools. At the same time the number of virtual schools is growing. On today's show, we talked about the big business of online charter schools.

And, how do you talk about being gay and Christian? And how should we be talking about it? We spoke to the founder of the Gay Christian Network to learn more.

And, could eating local save energy and help the planet? We took a closer look at the impact of the local food movement.

Also, Jen Guerra from Michigan Radio’s State of Opportunity project joined us to give a preview of her upcoming documentary, “The Education Gap.”

First on the show, is Detroit really broke?

That’s the question before Federal Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes as Detroit’s bankruptcy eligibility trial began today. His ruling could open the door for the City of Detroit blowing up billions of dollars in debt and liabilities.

As has been the case ever since the bankruptcy filing on July 18th, this is all being closely watched from coast to coast. History is being written in Judge Rhodes' courtroom.

Daniel Howes, Detroit News Business Columnist, and the former Chief of Communications for the City of Detroit, Karen Dumas, joined us today to talk about what this trial means and what we might see.

Wikipedia

"Let's agree to disagree, and then find ways to be witnesses for Christ together."

That is the message of the Gay Christian Network, which calls itself the nation's "largest interdenominational LGBT Christian organization."

The founder of the Gay Christian Network is Justin Lee. He's in West Michigan this week, one of the most "religiously conservative" areas of the state. Last night he spoke at Calvin College and this Friday he will speak at the "Room For All" National Conference at Central Reformed Church in Grand Rapids.

Justin Lee joined us on Wednesday today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse wanted to jointly adopt their children.

In the years that they’ve lived together, Rowse has adopted two children, and DeBoer adopted one, splitting the responsibilities of parenthood together. But a state ban on same-sex joint adoptions prohibited them from officially adopting their children together.

So in January 2012, DeBoer and Rowse filed a lawsuit against the state, arguing that preventing such adoptions violated rights of their children.

But U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman told the couple to take their complaint further — challenge the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage.

User Motown31 / Creative Commons

Affirmations, an LGBT community center in Ferndale, has launched an alternative high school program with the Michigan Educational Partnership.

The program is geared toward students who have dropped out or are having a hard time in school, often due to harassment or bullying that is common for LGBT students.

user: sylvar / Flickr

Part of the LGBT community is confusing to a lot of straight people and, really, some gay and lesbian people. The "T" in LGBT. Transgender people.

This piece includes the stories of two transgender women. Because their gender can cause confusion, Renee Knipe and Joanna Smith have struggled with things many people don't think about.

Knipe has been barred from using women's restrooms. Joanna Smith, who was once John Smith, is a father. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Nolan, Ryanne, and Jacob were excited about showing me their toys when I visited the home of Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer.

These three little kids have no idea that their moms are in the middle of one of the most closely watched federal court cases in Michigan.

Rowse, who is the legal parent of Nolan and Jacob, and DeBoer, who is Ryanne’s legal parent, have been raising the kids together -- jointly sharing their lives and responsibilities.

The two nurses wanted to jointly adopt their kids to better protect their futures.

In a few weeks, a U.S. District judge will hold a hearing on a Michigan case that challenges the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage. On today's show: we explored the implications the case could have in Michigan and across the nation.

Also on today's show, Michigan wines are really making a name for themselves outside of the state. We talked to a connoisseur who isn't the least bit surprised by that news. And, according to a new report, lobbyist spending on free lunches for legislators has gone up. We spoke to Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network to see what else they are spending on. Also, The Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference was this past weekend. It's Just Politics co-hosts Rick Pluta and Zoe Clark joined us to talk about what happened there.

DeBoer Rowse Adoption Legal Fund

On October 16th,  U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman will be hearing a case, which challenges Michigan’s Constitutional ban on gay marriage.

The case didn’t start out that way. It started out as a court case to simply protect the futures of these three little kids who really don’t understand such things as government and lawyers and courts. They only know they have a happy home with their two moms.

DeBoer and Rowse wanted to jointly adopt their kids to better protect their futures. The State of Michigan argued, no way. They can’t. They’re not married.

Their case has become the most anticipated development in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people’s rights in Michigan. They’re involved in a Federal court case that challenges the state’s Constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

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