LGBT

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

There’s a new effort to protect the property rights of same-sex couples in Michigan.

Currently, Michigan law only allows a spouse to inherit property in the absence of a will.  Michigan's constitution prohibits same sex marriage.   

But Ingham County is now recognizing out-of-state marriage licenses or affidavits from gay couples.  The county’s Register of Deeds says including the documents will help protect the property rights of same-sex couples.  

In 2004, a majority of Michigan voters approved an amendment to the state constitution, banning any recognition of marriage or civil unions between same-sex couples.

Just nine years later, it appears there has been a sea change.

A new poll, paid for by Chicago-based marketing consulting company, the Glengariff Group, finds that not only do most respondents agree the 2004 amendment should be reversed, they also support immediately replacing the ban with a new amendment, protecting marriage rights for gay and lesbian residents of the state.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Three townships in the Lansing region will be considering proposals to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender expression.

In a coordinated effort, Delhi, Meridian, and Delta township officials could vote on protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from employment, housing, and public accommodation discrimination with the next several weeks.

Photo from the 2011 Capital Pride Parade in Washington, D.C.
user ep_jhu / Flickr

Public polling and recent court cases have prompted greater discussion about adding protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in Michigan’s civil rights law. Advocates for the change say it’s time to stop legally discriminating against LGBT people. Others say changing the law say it would mean people opposed to homosexual behavior would be discriminated against. The issue is beginning to play out in the Michigan legislature.

Michigan’s civil rights law is known as the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act. It prohibits discrimination based on religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, family status, and marital status.

Advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and opponents of gay rights have one thing in common: both sides say discrimination should not be allowed. Where they go from there is very different.

LGBT advocates say sexual orientation and gender expression should be included in the Elliot-Larsen protections.

Anti-gay rights advocates say there’s no need for creating special classes of people to be protected.

courtesy U.S. Housing and Urban Develompment / HUD

Some Michigan residents are turned away for housing even if they can afford the rent for an apartment or the mortgage for a home. In many cases, landlords and bankers can legally discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. This discrimination happens even in communities with laws protecting LGBT people.

Michigan has no state law protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from being discriminated against when it comes to housing. Anti-gay rights advocates say no law is necessary because there are no documented cases of discrimination against LGBT people.

But, in a widely cited report, Michigan’s Fair Housing Centers found there is discrimination by landlords, real estate agents, banks and others involved in housing even in cities where laws prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Royal Oak voters will decide whether to approve the city’s human rights ordinance in November.

That ordinance extends civil rights protections to some people not covered by state or federal law—including gays and lesbians.

A citizen group had gathered enough signatures to either force the commission to rescind the ordinance, or put it on the ballot.

Royal Oak resident David Sims says voters should have the final say on the law, which he calls “ridiculous.”

Did you know there is actually still a Communist Party, USA? They even have a website, so that if, in the middle of the night, you are suddenly seized with a desire to join the party of Lenin and Stalin, why, you can get on line and whip out your credit card.

For $60 a year, you can be a Communist. Not only that, my guess is that if you do sign up, you won’t even lose your job or be visited by the FBI. That’s because the Communist Party today is no threat to anybody, and is, in fact, totally irrelevant.

That isn’t true of the Republican Party. Not yet, anyway. But increasingly, the GOP is beginning to behave like a wacky fringe party. They are offering positions way outside the mainstream. More and more, what one hears from Republican spokesmen is hatred and intolerance, and we got a good example yesterday.

user Marlith / Flickr

Some Michigan legislators have pushed bills calling for religious liberties to be honored through law. But one person’s religious liberty might be another person’s religious suppression.

Much of the debate about same-sex marriage is centered in people’s religious beliefs. The religion with the most followers in Michigan is the Catholic Church. It opposes same-sex marriage.

“Marriage from the Catholic perspective is between one man and one woman because that promotes the creation, the procreation of life,” explained Thomas Hickson, Vice President of Public Policy and Advocacy for the Michigan Catholic Conference

It should be noted that a survey of Michigan voters last year found the majority of people who identified themselves as Catholic approved of same-sex civil unions or marriage. But that’s not the Church’s official position.

Recently the Catholic Conference announced its advocacy priorities for the current legislative session.  Among the religious liberties it intends to defend is a 2004 amendment to the Michigan Constitution. That amendment defines marriage as between one woman and one man. It also bans recognition of similar unions- in other words Michigan cannot grant any of the rights or privileges of marriage to same-sex couples. No adoption rights. No survivor’s benefits. No health insurance for public employees.

But, some other religious organizations view same-sex marriage differently and feel gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people should be treated equally under the law.

user Marlith / Flickr

Michigan’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act protects many people from discrimination.  You cannot be fired from your job because of your religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, family status, or marital status. But you can be fired for being gay. 

Advocates for LGBT people ask why should gay people be singled out for who they are?

But gay rights opponents say this is not about who they are; this is about their behavior.

Gary Glenn is with American Family Association – Michigan.

“We don’t believe that, for example, a Christian bookstore should be forced to hire some guy who claims to be a woman and wants to wear a dress to work and use the women’s restroom. We don’t believe that a Catholic school ought to be forced to hire an openly homosexual man as a football coach, for example.”

Glenn says it would be an infringement of employers’ rights if Michigan were to amend the state’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act to protect LGBT people.

user Marlith / Flickr

We’d like to think all people are treated equally in America.

In fact, we think our system is set up to make sure that happens. There are, though, people who are not protected.

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.

LGBT flag.
Guillaume Paumier / Flickr

The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to rule on two cases involving same sex marriage this year, bringing LGBT rights to the forefront of political discussion.

In Michigan, the Eliot-Larsen Civil Rights law doesn't protect members of the LGBT community.

This means that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals can be fired, denied housing, and turned away from restaurants and hotels based on their sexual identity.

Michigan Radio's Lester Graham spoke with Jay Kaplan with the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.

Kaplan has been the staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan’s LGBT Project since its founding in 2001. He has fought against Michigan’s constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying.

Listen to the full interview above.

DeBoer Rowse Adoption Legal Fund

Federal Judge Bernard Friedman decided not to rule on Michigan's gay marriage ban this morning.

He said he wanted to wait until after the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on same-sex marriage.

Rick Pluta was at today’s hearing in Detroit and he joined to talk about this surprise decision.

He talked with us about the takeaway from today's hearing.

Wikimedia Commons

Universities across the country are opening up campus housing to transgender students and it's happening right here in Michigan.

The University of Michigan housing has announced it will set aside a block of gender neutral rooms for transgender and gender non-conforming students in the fall of 2013, as a part of the gender inclusive living experience.

We speak with Amy Navvab, a student at the University of Michigan and Chair of the Open Housing Initiative, and Amanda Hobson, Residential Coordinator at Ohio University where gender neutral housing is already available to students.

Listen to the interview above.

Correction:     An earlier version of this story spelled "Corunna" incorrectly. It has been fixed.

The Corunna Public School District is facing a federal lawsuit after a lesbian teacher was fired. The controversy started with a Diversity Club at the high school in the small town west of Flint.

Brook Johnson was a teacher/advisor to the Diversity Club. In 2009 the club decided to put up a display in honor of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender History month. It featured photos of celebrities who had come out as gay or lesbian. It caused controversy and the school board ordered it removed.

The ACLU challenged the decision. The Corunna Board of Education changed its position and allowed the display.

The lawsuit alleges the administration then turned on Johnson, ostracizing her and then forcing her out.

A new draft report finds allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians hurts Michigan’s economy. The state’s Civil Rights Commission is reviewing the report and might take action.

In Michigan it’s legal to discriminate against people who are Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or Transgender. Housing and job discrimination are a couple of the examples that are allowed by law.

Imagine what you might know about physical space and tranquility if you lived in a drug house, an abandoned building, or jail.

That’s the experience for many of the women who stay at the Women and Family Treatment and Shelter at Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries. They often come from intense circumstances to the shelter, in order to make big changes in their lives.

The shelter is housed in a former convent. On the third floor everything reeks of fresh paint. A professional paint company has donated the paint and man power to paint the walls. The long hallway is now sky-blue and the twenty rooms where the women live now have fresh coats of cotton-candy pink and lemon-yellow paint.

Terry Grahl runs the non-profit Enchanted Makeovers and she’s making this large-scale renovation happen by coordinating a symphony of volunteers and businesses. She got a church in Taylor to making curtains for all the rooms. An artist from Georgia is coming in to paint murals on the walls and the shelter is also getting new ceiling fans and new floors.

Kyle Norris

Matthew Dawson is the kid wearing sunglasses inside, in the middle of the day. He’s in a room full of about twenty kids who flip, dip, and cat-walk in a dance style known as “vogue.” (For a quick reference, think Madonna’s “Vogue” video from 1990.)

He says this style of dancing is a powerful way for him to express himself. “One of the emotions I say I put into my vogue is anger. I feel like I put it into vogue so I won’t have to put it into other things that are not very constructive.”

Matthew Dawson says as an LGBTQ young person, if he danced like this in the outside world—or on the street—he would not be safe.  And these vogue dancers find safety in their dance community.

Among the many voices at the Ruth Ellis Center is Adesola Akinleye, a professional dancer and choreographer. She contacted the center  to be of service to the LGBTQ young adults who come there.

She teaches them ballet.

But the youth have also been teaching her about the world of vogue dancing.

Listen to Michigan Radio’s Kyle Norris audio postcard above.

There are two ways you can podcast "Stateside with Cynthia Canty"

user robscomputer / Flickr

Legislation would give private adoption agencies the legal right to turn down prospective parents for any moral or religious reason.  That’s what’s in a pair of bills being considered by lawmakers in Lansing.

The bills would guarantee private adoption agencies working on state contracts would be protected from rules that could compromise their religious or moral convictions.

Stateside: LGBT Parenting

Nov 19, 2012
user Marlith / Flickr

A child's decision to discuss his or her sexuality with a parent is a defining moment.

A parent's reaction can have critical effects on the confidence and health of their child.

Author Anne Dohrenwend addressed the ways one should communicate with a homosexual child.

Her new book, “Coming Around: Parenting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Kids,” assesses healthy relationships between parents and their gay children.

Mike Neubecker of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) also spoke with Cyndy.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A Holland minister who’s been pushing for equal protection for gay, bisexual and transgender people says he’ll consider staging another protest. That’s in spite of a jury this week convicting him of trespassing for his first protest.

Reverend Bill Freeman is upset Holland City Council voted not to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the city’s anti-discrimination laws. One night last October Freeman decided to occupy city hall to try to get city council to change its mind and join more than a dozen other Michigan cities with similar laws. He was arrested for trespassing when the building was closed that evening.

“It’s time for the City of Holland to join the 21st century,” Freeman said, referencing changes to the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy and President Obama’s recent support of gay marriage. “The City of Holland knows what the right thing is and that is not to allow discrimination of anybody,” Freeman added.

State Bar of Michigan

Michigan’s landmark civil rights law was celebrated today as a legal milestone in a ceremony at the state Capitol that re-united the two main sponsors of the legislation.

State Representative Daisy Elliott was a Democrat from Detroit. State Representative Mel Larsen was a Republican from Oakland County.

The 36-year-old Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act protects against discrimination based on race, religion, gender; national origin, or marital status.

Johnny Jenkins / Affirmations

Yesterday, Affirmations Lesbian/Gay Community Center in Ferndale began what they call a "rolling" hunger strike that will last until the general election in November.

Organizers say the 100-day event protests the "extreme anti-equality environment in Michigan" of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender population.

The hunger strike will be comprised of 24-hour shifts in which volunteers will refrain from eating or drinking anything but water. The strikers will be on display inside the front windows of the Affirmations building on 9 mile road.

user Tyrone Warner / Flickr

Mount Pleasant has joined the ranks of more than a dozen Michigan cities with anti-discrimination laws protecting gay, lesbian and transgender people.  Activists say it's a big step for a relatively conservative town.

The city is home to Central Michigan University, and supporters of the ordinance say it's the last big college town in the state to adopt such a law. 

Norma Bailey is with the Mount Pleasant Area Diversity group. She says the law was met with some pushback, especially from residents who wanted to ensure religious institutions would be exempted from the law.

"This process has worked beautifully to, in fact, take a conservative area and help people understand what we were talking about," she said. "This isn't about marriage. This isn't about bathrooms. This is about people having the right to have a job, housing and accommodations that are equitable with everyone else."

The city can fine violators up to $2,500.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s Civil Rights Department heard more than two hours of testimony Tuesday night about whether the state should expand protections to gay, bisexual and transgender people. It’s a hot issue in Holland. More than 200 people packed Holland City Hall.

State law bans discrimination in housing and employment based on some factors - like race, gender, and national origin. But there are no such protections for people who are gay or transgender. That means a landlord, condo association or employer can legally discriminate based on a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s Department of Civil Rights is studying how current laws and policies regarding gay and transgender people affect people’s lives, jobs, communities and businesses. Though state laws ban discrimination in housing and employment based on some factors – people who are gay or transgender are not included.

The department will hold a public hearing in Holland Tuesday.

The Guardian

The rights of gay and lesbian Americans leaped into the national spotlight again after President Obama came out in favor of same-sex marriage. He made the announcement a day after North Carolinians voted to become the 30th state in the U.S. to place a ban on same-sex marriage.

Michigan voters banned same-sex marriages in 2004.

Some states have done the opposite. They've passed laws expressly allowing same sex marriages.

And then there are laws on adoption. Some states allow same-sex couples to adopt jointly. Other states have banned the practice.

Laws restricting and protecting gay Americans vary widely from state to state. There are laws regarding hospital visitation, employment discrimination, housing discrimination, hate crimes, and harassment in schools.

The national picture on gay and lesbian legal rights and restrictions is jumbled and difficult to explain.

But a unique form of journalism - data visualization journalism - can help bring light to the overall picture.

That's just what The Guardian has done with U.S. state laws that address gay and lesbian issues.

In one look, you can see which states have adopted laws protecting the rights of gays and lesbians, and which states have passed laws restricting their rights.

The Guardian's color wheel shows that in the Midwest, Iowa stands out legislatively as a "gay friendly" state, while states like Michigan would decidedly not be seen that way.

Michigan, Mississippi, and Utah are the only states that expressly ban same-sex marriages and joint adoption by same-sex couples.

Take a look at their color wheel and let us know what you think of it.

HT to GG

Every Monday morning we speak with someone who is trying to change their community. Today, as our Seeking Change series continues, we speak with Ariana  Bostian-Kentes. She's the co-founder of the group Military Partners and Families Coalition. It’s a support group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and  transgender partners of active military service members. The founders came together after testifying in Washington D.C. before  the group analyzing the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, and what would happen post-repeal.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A battle over gay and lesbian legal protections is heating up.

Sixty-five local elected officials have signed a letter supporting a bill that would add sexual orientation to the state civil rights act.

Derek Dobies is a city councilman in Jackson. He says this is an economic issue for Michigan.

“Given Michigan’s brain drain," says Dobies, "we need to do everything that we can…both at the local level and at the state level that’s within our power…to put a welcome sign on Michigan.” 

Jon Hoadley is the director of the Unity Michigan Coalition. He says its important to have the support of local leaders in this statewide fight.

“We have elected officials in Grand Rapids…Kalamazoo and Jackson," says Hoadley, "cities big and small across the state saying ‘we think that non-discrimination protections are good for us and they’re good for Michigan’.” 

Eighteen cities in Michigan have local ordinances against discrimination against gays and lesbians.

There is a bill in the state House to nullify those local ordinances.

LGBT flag
antiochla.edu / Antioch University

At the state Capitol, a Democratic lawmaker has called for expending Michigan’s civil rights law to protect people who are gay, lesbian or transgender from many types of discrimination.

State Senator Rebekah Warren says expanding the civil rights law would send a message that Michigan is trying to attract creative workers and entrepreneurs.

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