Momentum spurred by Proposal 2 continues

By |2018-01-15T23:32:31-05:00April 12th, 2009|Uncategorized|

FERNDALE – Meetings across the state this weekend continued the momentum generated by the passage of the anti-gay Proposal 2 and the election of an anti-LGBT president Nov. 2.
Nearly 150 people attended four separate meetings in Ferndale, Flint, Lansing, and Midland Dec. 4 and 5. These meetings come on the heels of November meetings in Ann Arbor of nearly 150 people, two meetings in Ferndale at Affirmations Lesbian and Gay Community Center in November that drew about 95 people total, and a meeting in Ypsilanti that was attended by nearly 50 people. The purpose of the meetings is to organize and strategize in response to the November election and in preparation for the 2006 election.
Those attending one of the four meetings over the weekend included Jay Kaplan, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan’s LGBT Project, Susan Horowitz and Howard Israel of the Coalition for a Fair Michigan, Jan Stevenson of Between The Lines, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and Ruth Ellis Center Board members John Allen and Kathleen Russell, Affirmations Lesbian and Gay Community Center’s Kat LaTosch, PFLAG’s Mary Scholl, and Perception’s Jeff Ilig, Charles Lisee and Leo Romo. Also attending were representatives from faith communities, other non-profits, and LGBT people and allies.
The meetings are the beginning of drafting a strategic plan that asks what we can reasonably accomplish in the next four years. Also addressed were the continuation of CFM as Fair Michigan Majority, building depth and infrastructure at the local level, and finding personal ways to expand being engaged.
“The reason we’re all here is homophobia,” said Horowitz at the Ferndale meeting. “The cross hairs we’re in today are far greater than they were even two years ago.”
Kaplan discussed legal strategies and options surrounding Proposal 2. He said that there were a lot of possibilities, not all of them good. The inclusion of the words “or similar union for any purpose” in the amendment is the subject of much legal confusion. “We have no court decision interpreting what those words mean … so anybody who’s saying, ‘This is what it means,’ they’re seriously jumping the gun,” he said.
Kaplan said he believes the amendment should be limited to marriage based on what proponents said. “So we’re going to hold them to their word even though they’re changing their tune.”
The lack of a court interpretation has led the state of Michigan to take domestic partner benefits for same-sex couples out of state workers’ contracts after they were negotiated for the first time this year.
Also discussed was the issue of moral values and how LGBT people and allies can reclaim that language. “People are always trying to frame the argument for us,” said Kaplan. “And I think we’ve got great moral values … but we have to start talking about them.”
If we don’t speak for ourselves, no one will speak for us, Israel said. “We all have to be liaisons for our cause.”
The groups voiced a need to support allied organizations and causes in Michigan, including opposing the anti-affirmative action ballot initiative that will likely be on the 2006 ballot, and reproductive freedom. “We owe a tremendous debt to allied organizations in Michigan. … It’s not enough for us to take from them and say, ‘Thank you,'” said Allen. “We need to get our community out on the affirmative action ballot initiative.”
A big question was how to get people more involved.
“You keep asking,” said Israel. “You have to be undaunted. Keep plugging away with your gay and lesbian neighbors.” One thing that was important to keep in mind, however, is that you can’t move everyone to action. “Not everybody is going to be involved,” said Israel.
“There’s a lot of discussion in our community about complacency,” added LaTosch. “I see a lot of people walking around whining that nobody else is doing anything.” LaTosch said she didn’t think that was helpful.
“There’s a lot we can do to be more visible,” said diedra knox at the meeting Dec. 5 in Midland. “We need to come out more at work and even in our churches,” she said. knox is a Perceptions board member and a teacher at the Delta Community College.
“It can feel overwhelming to people,” said Kaplan, “but I think it’s really important that we give people concrete things that they can do.”
One of the things the group came up with was building a personal email list. “Each one of us [should go] out of our way to build a list of 50 people so when something … comes up we can, with a push of a button, tell 50 people,” said Allen.
Other suggestions included sending a personal message in holiday cards, writing letters to local newspapers, and joining at least one national and one local organization to keep informed.
Ideas generated at the meeting will be compiled and posted to the Fair Michigan Majority web site in the next week.
Though turnout was not as high as the first meetings following the election, there remained a sense of urgency that organizers found encouraging.
“I think there was a before November 2 and an after November 2 for all of us,” said Horowitz. “I now see a level of energy statewide that I see as an incredible opportunity.”
Horowitz added, “People are energized in a way I’ve never seen the state be energized.”
The next activity is a vigil at the State Capitol in Lansing on Dec. 17 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. sponsored by Michigan Equality. Dec. 17 is the day the state constitution will be amended to discriminate against lesbian and gay families.
On Jan. 12, the day the legislature convenes, a demonstration is scheduled at the State Capitol. “I think a key is to have huge numbers,” said organizer Stephen Eddins. “If enough of us commit to this one morning in Lansing it could make a really big difference in how our legislature sees our community.”
Participants are encouraged to wear black armbands with a pink triangle on them to protest the singling out of LGBT families for discrimination in Michigan.
Details are still being determined and volunteers are needed. Those interested in volunteering should contact Stephen Eddins at 734-483-2524 or [email protected]
To stay up to date visit in the next week for the launch of Fair Michigan Majority.

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