LGBT

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.

Nancy Gallardo / Until Love Is Equal

The City of Muskegon seems likely to pass local laws protecting gay and transgender people from discrimination in housing and employment.

The state and federal government do not offer this protection, but almost 20 Michigan cities do.

Roberta King lives in Muskegon. She was "pleasantly surprised" no one opposed the local law when she asked city commission to consider it this week.

The White House hosted the LGBT Conference on Housing and Homelessness today in Detroit. It explored various issues lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people face when it comes to finding housing or dealing with homelessness. This was one of four such conferences the White House is hosting around the country.

Janice Daniels

Troy Mayor Janice Daniels could face a recall campaign next November if members of the Oakland County Election Commission approve language on recall petitions filed by the political action committee "Recall Janice Daniels," and if organizers get enough valid signatures.

More from the Detroit News:

One petition targets her for voting in December to reject $8.4 million in federal grant money for a transit center. The other alleges she refused to swear support for the city charter while taking the oath of office.

Recall organizers also claim she violated city rules by exceeding speaking time limits at a City Council meeting to read a position paper about her opposition to the center and embarrassed Troy by allegedly telling high school students the "homosexual lifestyle is dangerous."

Mayor Daniels first came under fire when an anti-gay slur she posted on Facebook was unearthed.

The post was in reaction to New York's gay marriage law and was made prior to her term as Troy Mayor. It read:

“I think I am going to throw away my I love New York carrying bag now that queers can get married there.”

user Tyrone Warner / Flickr

A group of high school students in Plymouth and Canton is hosting an educational summit on Saturday, Feb. 4. They want to address some of the issues gay students deal with in school. The group is known as a “gay-straight alliance," or  GSA.

Saturday’s event is open to all students, teachers and parents affiliated with the three high schools.

While the national prayer breakfast was happening in Washington this morning, faith leaders in Kalamazoo held their own prayer breakfast.

The group of leaders from different faiths discussed state laws affecting people who are lesbian, gay or transgender.

The Kalamazoo Gay Lesbian Resource Center helped organize the breakfast. Executive Director Zach Bauer says faith has meant two things to the LGBT community.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

In May of 2010, Pastor Bill Freeman asked the Holland City Council to pass a Gay Rights Ordinance. The city's Human Relations Commission considered the question for nearly a year, and recommended unanimously that the City Council add the words, "sexual orientation and gender identity," to the city's anti-discrimination ordinances.

The City Council voted 5-4 in June of last year against doing so. Pastor Freeman is trying to keep the issue alive. He’s attended every regular City Council meeting since June to ask that the "no" voters change their minds. He also tried to "occupy" city hall on October 19th last year.  He was arrested for trespassing.

As part of our new "Seeking Change" series, we speak to Pastor Freeman about his efforts in Holland.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A community organization in Holland has accepted an award from the city after unsuccessfully lobbying for an anti-discrimination law there.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan is suing Governor Snyder over the state’s new law banning domestic partner benefits.

Snyder signed the controversial law just before Christmas.

It prohibits school districts, counties and other public employers from extending health insurance coverage to employees’ unmarried domestic partners. State universities are exempted.

The ACLU filed suit on behalf of four couples. One plaintiff is Doak Bloss of East Lansing, whose partner of 18 years stands to lose his benefits under the new law.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Holland is Ready will get one of the city’s social justice awards later this month. The award comes six months after Holland City Council rejected proposed anti-discrimination rules. A citizen nominated the group for consideration.

Undercover officers arrested at least a dozen men at public parks during the fall of 2010. During the sting operation, male undercover officers would approach men and suggest engaging in sexual activity. Those who reciprocated interest were charged with soliciting sex or accosting.

Facebook photo

Troy Mayor Janice Daniels faced a packed and angry house at a City Council meeting Monday night.

Residents and non-residents alike lined up to blast Daniels, who’s come under fire for an anti-gay slur she made on Facebook. A Troy blog unearthed the remark from earlier this year.

It read: “I think I am going to throw away my I love New York carrying bag now that queers can get married there.”

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Last month Reverend Bill Freeman was arrested for refusing to leave city hall. He was protesting Holland City Council’s decision in June 2011 against adding sexual orientation and gender identity to its anti-discrimination laws. The proposed changes would have given homosexual and transgender persons protection from discrimination by employers and landlords.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A minister faces charges of disturbing the peace for protesting Holland City Council’s decision against adding sexual orientation and gender identity to its anti-discrimination laws. The proposed changes would have given homosexual and transgender persons protection from discrimination by employers and landlords. City Council voted 5 to 4 in June 2011 against moving to adopt the local ordinance.

“It’s not about me. It’s not about (city council),” Reverend Bill Freeman Said, “It’s about people who are being discriminated against in the City of Holland just because of who they are and I don’t think that’s right.”

Freeman and others have attended every city council meeting since the decision to ask city council to change their minds. Earlier this month some city council members told the group they wouldn’t change their minds, adding that the group should change their tactics.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A group of young people marched through Holland Wednesday night to protest a vote city council made in June against adding sexual orientation and gender identity to its anti-discrimination laws.

These laws would protect people from getting fired or kicked out of their houses because they are gay or transgender. Federal and state laws protect people from discrimination – but not based on a person’s sexuality or gender identity. The debate in Holland has not died with that vote.

About 150 people marched as part of an ongoing effort to demand Holland City Council change its decision. The march was organized to show young people in Holland support the effort.

Lansing police reach out to the LGBT community

Jul 18, 2011
Nikonmani / Flickr

All this year, Michigan Radio has been taking a look at groups and various programs that are trying to improve the state. It's part of our series, "What's Working." In 2010 Detective Michelle Bryant became the Lansing Police Department’s first liaison to the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender community. We speak to Detective Bryant this morning for our "What's Working" series.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Sometime between midnight and 1 a.m. today, at least 50 people file out of Holland City Hall. I hear some say, “They don’t get it, but you tried.”

A few people wearing "Holland is Ready" buttons hug one another -- some are tearing up -- after city council voted 5 to 4 against the recommendation to adopt the proposed anti-discrimination laws. The recommendation included providing homosexual and transgender persons protection from employers and landlords who discriminate against them.

(GOOGLE Earth, Street View)

The American Civil Liberties Union is accusing Rochester High School administrators of denying students their First Amendment rights. The ACLU claims the web filtering software on the school’s computers censors Gay and Lesbian websites.   

Jay Kaplan is with the ACLU of Michigan. He says it's an important legal issue.  

“Students do not lose their First Amendment rights when they enter the schoolhouse door.   Schools need to take a closer look at this sort of thing.”

Kaplan says if the school district does not change its web filtering software, the ACLU might take Rochester Community Schools to court. 

Blue Ocean Faith is an all-inclusive Christian community in Ann Arbor
user Marlith / Flickr

Scholarships for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students are popping up all over the country and Lansing Community College has just created its own version of an LGBT scholarship.

The LCC scholarship is for gay students, under age 25, who have done advocacy work within the community. There are approximately fifty national scholarships for LGBT students, straight students who have supported the community, and children of gay parents.  There are more than a dozen similar scholarships for students who want to attend Michigan’s four year universities.

Candace Gingrich-Jones is with the Human Rights Campaign.  She says they’re seeing a lot of gay alumni who decide to donate money and create scholarships for LGBT students.

“It’s like if you’re a member of a fraternity or sorority, or if you’re a member of the theater club. You want to pass something on to the next group of people.”

The LCC scholarship was funded and named in honor of Betsy Lou Robson, a woman from Lansing. 

Human Rights Campaign maintains a database of LGBT scholarships, broken down by state.

Senator Levin speaks with military member
Carl Levin

Associated Press reports the senate has cleared the way for a vote on Saturday afternoon on a bill that would overturn the military's ban on openly gay troops. Senators voted 63-33 to advance the legislation. It's already passed the House and  now looks likely to reach the president's desk before the new year.

Earlier in the day Senator Levin gave a senate floor statement.

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