By Dawn Wolfe Gutterman
LANSING – Funding to help LGBT crime victims could be threatened if anti-gay family crusader Gary Glenn has his way.
As reported by Between The Lines in December, the Triangle Foundation has received a $40,000 grant from the state of Michigan to further its work assisting LGBT crime victims. The money was awarded by the state’s Crime Victim Services Commission under the Victims of Crime Act program, which collects federal court fines from perpetrators to be used for victim assistance. Triangle plans to use the money for its Anti-Violence Project, which assists LGBT hate crime victims in a number of ways, from guiding victims through the legal process to providing referrals to shelters, health care providers, counselors and attorneys. (See “Triangle receives state victim-assistance grant,” online at www.pridesource.com.)
However, Glenn, the president of the self-styled Christian organization American Family Association of Michigan, is opposed to using government funds to aid LGBT crime victims, and is urging state legislators to take the money away.
In a Feb. 3 press release, Glenn implied that helping LGBT victims of violence was “hostile to the values of most Michigan families.”
According to the release, “Glenn, in an e-mail [Feb. 2] to Sen. Tony Stamas, R-Midland, and Rep. Bruce Caswell, R-Hillsdale, wrote, ‘We are confident that you will be shocked and outraged, as are many Michigan taxpayers, to learn that a state agency over which you have budgetary oversight is using government funds to subsidize a militantly partisan homosexual activist group hostile to the values of most Michigan families.'”
In addition to its work on behalf of crime victims, Triangle lobbies on behalf of the rights of same-sex couples and LGBT-headed families in Michigan. One current issue in which Triangle is heavily involved is an effort to protect children by passing a second parent adoption bill that would ensure that children have a legal relationship with both parents.
Recent news reports indicate that Caswell and Stamas may be taking Glenn’s bait. According to a Feb. 6 report by the Hillsdale Daily News, Caswell “who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee for the Michigan Department of Community Health will investigate whether his panel can control the distribution of federal money for state groups.”
When and how that investigation will take place is unclear. No hearings on the issue had been scheduled as of press time, according to a staffer in Caswell’s office.
And, on Feb. 8, Stamas told Michigan Public Radio’s Rick Pluta, “They [the Triangle Foundation] have a very clear political agenda, and so that’s something we’re going to take a hard look at. I do have some very serious concerns.”
In the same report, Triangle Director of Policy Sean Kosofsky told Pluta, “There’s really few, if any, organizations in our state doing the kind of work that Triangle is on hate crimes. Many amazing organizations are doing work on crime and domestic violence, but very few are working with specific victims every day on hate violence.”
Most recently, Triangle has been working with the family of a Windsor man who was shot in January in an anti-gay hate incident outside of Gigi’s, a Detroit gay bar.
According to Justin Winslow, a staffer for Senator Stamos, “At this point I think that this office is just looking into it.” Winslow said that as of press time Stamos’ office had no plans for specific action regarding the grant.
“This is absolutely the most immoral and nasty thing Gary Glenn has ever done. He’s a morally bankrupt man who will stop at nothing to hurt gay people,” Kosofsky told BTL, and added that his organization will be working to educate the state legislature about the need for the services that Triangle offers. As reported in the Dec. 15 edition of BTL, hate crimes figures for 2004 released by the FBI showed a 78 percent rise in reported hate crimes against gays and lesbians in one year. According to the 2004 report, Michigan ranked second in the nation for hate crimes against lesbians and gays. (See “State sees sharp rise in hate crimes” online at www.pridesource.com)
What to do if you’re a victim
If you have been the victim of a hate crime, contact the Triangle Foundation at 313-537-3323, ext. 114. In addition to keeping statistics on hate crimes against LGBTs, Triangle helps victims through the process of reporting hate crimes to their local police and prosecuting the offenders – if victims choose to do so.