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2018 Year-End Overview

By |2019-01-02T08:14:47-05:00December 26th, 2018|Michigan, News|

As 2018 comes to an end, Michigan’s LGBTQ community can look back on a year filled with both hard hits to our rights along with major political wins toward greater equality. On a national scale, the rights of transgender individuals have been threatened along with the security of marriage equality, yet the year’s midterm elections saw a huge rise in pro-equality candidates.
Locally, this year Michiganders fought against conversion therapy and banded together to protect the rights of those promoting self-expression with events like Drag Queen Story Time. At the same time, populous cities in Michigan scored well above the national average on Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index.
Of course, these are just a few examples of the wins and losses the community has experienced in 2018, so Between The Lines reached out to people on the ground to get a fuller picture of the year and what is to come in 2019. We spoke with community LGBTQ leaders, politicians and representatives of LGBTQ-specific organizations to get their take on the successes and failures of the year, local midterm results, their goals coming into 2019 and any hurdles they anticipate facing.
They brought up both wins in the past year as well as goals they were striving for, like the need for governmental transparency, expanded services for the disabled and elderly LGBTQ community, increased voter education, housing and health care service growth. But despite all the new year’s upcoming tasks and priorities, the overwhelming attitude of each contributor seemed that of optimism and resolution. Perhaps it was Washtenaw County Commissioner Jason Morgan who summed it up best when he answered why it was important for LGBTQ politicians and activists to be present in the community.
“To have LGBT folks in leadership … sends a message to the community that we’re here, we’re proud and we’re out,” Morgan said. “It’d be a very strong sign that our community is welcoming and encouraging of those of us who are LGBT. It’s a sign that we’re taken seriously.”
So although we couldn’t reach them all, we selected 22 of those prominent community members to include in this year-end issue. Here’s their take on which projects, issues and people will be valuable to watch in 2019.


Cynthia Thornton — President of Pride at Work Michigan

Pride at Work Michigan is a nonprofit organization that represents LGBTQ union members and their allies that works to organize mutual community support between the organized labor movement and the LGBTQ members within it. Across the U.S. there are over 20 chapters and Thornton serves as Michigan’s president. She said her primary goals for next year are to focus on inclusivity for members who are transgender, hard of hearing and blind.
“Because it is still a fairly conservative workplace, typically male,” Thornton said. “We need to raise our education around those issues, so that when we do have LGBT folks who want to work in those environments that it’s a comfortable work environment. And so that people are comfortable and have had some LGBT exposure education.”
She said that post the midterm elections she’s “cautiously optimistic” that her work will be made easier because of the “blue wave” felt in the state.
“Running an election versus actually doing the work [is different], and that phrase has been used a lot, ‘Get to work, do the work.’ So, we’re going to see,” she said. “We definitely have a more progressive situation, but of course we don’t have the legislature so the possibilities around getting the Elliott-Larsen Act expanded are not as good. … We don’t want to lose any of the momentum that we built this year. In our first year we basically wanted to let people know that the chapter was back and doing LGBT, voter ed and candidate visibility. We’re trying to move that forward and add to it and spread that vision and work.”


State Rep. Jon Hoadley 60th District

Democratic State Rep. Jon Hoadley represents Michigan’s 60th District. Due to term limits, 2019 will mark the start of his third and final two-year term representing the city of Kalamazoo and part of Kalamazoo county. He was clear that he wants to start 2019 with a strong push toward expanding the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
“It is a priority of the governor. She went out of her way to talk about it in the public debates,” Hoadley said. “It’s an issue that myself and my colleagues such as Sen.-elect Moss, Rep. Sneller and others have been championing for years since I came to the legislature. And we know that it is popularly supported by the residents of Michigan, so this has to be the year that gets it done.”
Looking past 2019 and into the 2020 presidential election year, Hoadley emphasized the importance of the LGBTQ community voting and paying attention to politics at play.
“The Trump administration has shown that we can’t take LGBT equality for granted. His appointment of Supreme Court candidates are threatening the underpinnings of marriage equality,” Hoadley said. “His administrative choices are directly attacking transgender people and other administrative policies are jeopardizing the safety of LGBT people in an international context. So, as we look to 2020, we have to see that there is a stark difference in the priorities of the major political parties. Republicans are bad at LGBT issues and Democrats have been very good on LGBT issues. Looking ahead to Michigan, I think some of those decisions coming from the Trump administration could impact our state.”


State Sen. Jeremy Moss 11th District

Jeremy Moss made history in November when he was elected the first openly gay person to the Michigan State Senate.. Moss’s district includes the communities of Farmington, Farmington Hills, Ferndale, Hazel Park, Huntington Woods, Lathrup Village, Madison Heights, Oak Park, Pleasant Ridge, Southfield and the Charter Township of Royal Oak. When asked what his priorities in 2019 will be, he emphasized governmental transparency.
“It’s important. This is probably one of the biggest issues I have campaigned on and it resonates with folks across the political spectrum,” Moss said. “We are one of two states where people can’t access their government records in the legislature or in the governor’s office and I don’t think a lot of people knew about that until we really highlighted this issue in a bipartisan fashion.”
He added that increasing LGBTQ visibility in politics through more openly gay elected officials like himself will aid in creating progressive policies in the future. He predicts that in 2019 the LGBTQ community will need to focus on housing and job security.
“I think of an older lesbian couple that I talk to often in Southfield,” he said. “And as they approach their retirement years, they don’t want to have to go back in the closet after living a proud and open life so that they can go back to living in a retirement community together. Because nothing protects them in Michigan law from a retirement community kicking them out for being a lesbian couple.”
He then mentioned “the other end of the spectrum.”
“We need to attract young talent to Michigan, and if we don’t have laws that protect LGBT workers who want to contribute to our economy, they ain’t gonna come here,” Moss said.


State Rep. Tim Sneller 50th District

Now set to serve a second term in the Michigan House of Representatives, State Rep. Tim Sneller represents the 50th House District in Genesee County which includes the cities of Grand Blanc and Burton and both Mundy and Grand Blanc Townships. He said his focus will be amending Michigan’s current hate crimes law to include the LGBTQ community.
“And I am going to reintroduce it and I’ll reintroduce it until we can get the majority,” Sneller said. “And hopefully we can get some movement on it and this time with the majority being closer than it was this current legislative session. Maybe we can convince some of our Republican friends that this is the right thing to do.”
Sneller said that midterm voter turnout was great to witness and that it’s a great jumping-off point for more progress — pointing to the legislation passed during the lame duck session as a spot for improvement.
“If you look at the vote count, even nationwide there were 8.7 million more Democrats that voted than Republicans. That was a landslide. And it set a record. It beat 1974 right after the Nixon resignation, but because the lines were so gerrymandered it was almost impossible,” Sneller said. “I’m thrilled that we picked up five seats in the house. I think we need to build on that. We’re watching what’s going on in lame duck, the undemocratic things our Republican colleagues are trying to push through in these remaining days, I think it’s shameful. We need to fight that.”


Beth Bashert Mayor of Ypsilanti

Ypsilanti Mayor Beth Bashert won out with 63 percent of the vote in her city last November. She ran on a platform that advocated for changing the city’s budget, bringing back services and increasing development. She said that though Ypsilanti is already an LGBTQ-friendly place, she’s excited and honored to work with a city that’s focused on inclusion. She added that her goal is to combat any existing hostility against the LGBTQ community and to make Ypsilanti a positive example in the state. Ideally, a city to which people are drawn and where they’ll end up wanting to stay.
“Michigan’s had a lot of brain drain in the last 20 years and a lot of people that left were talented people and a lot of people that left were from the LGBTQ community,” Bashert said. “And if Michigan is going to continue to be hostile, it’s going to restrict people from coming back. I hope that [the midterm election results] make all of our work at the local level more effective and allow us to do more work to support civil rights.”
When asked if she expects any obstacles to achieving her goals, she mentioned divisiveness within parts of the LGBTQ community.
“There are some factions that feel like it’s us or them or that some people say, ‘If we do this kind of development that helps this part of the community then it takes away from me,'” Bashert said. “That kind of thinking is just going to really interfere with the unification of the LGBTQ movement going forward. We have got support each other as we grow for our health and the strength of our community.”


Dana Nessel Attorney General

She made history as the first openly gay attorney general in Michigan’s history in 2018, running on a progressive platform of inclusion and a promise to pay special attention to prosecuting those who commit hate crimes. BTL caught up with Nessel while she was still on the campaign trail to get her thoughts on her main focus in the new year. She emphasized that she will be a staunch advocate for LGBTQ rights during her term.
“At a time where the community is under assault, if the worst thing you can say about me is that I’m too aggressive in my efforts to support the LGBTQ community, same-sex couples, their families, etc., then maybe that’s what we need right now. … There’s about a hundred other issues that I think are incredibly important, but if people see me as being incredibly eager and interested and anxious to assist the community in terms of protecting the community then so be it,” Nessel said. “That is who I’m gonna be and I’m not gonna shy away from it. No matter who you are in the community, even if you’re a person who has not seen eye-to-eye with me on how to best proceed in terms of gaining protection, I will always do everything I can to protect the lives of LGBTQ residents in this state.”
However, she made clear that she has experience in various other cases, too.
“I have more experience in practicing criminal law both as a prosecutor and a defense attorney than anyone who’s ever held the office of attorney general,” she said.


Mark LaChey – 2nd Vice Chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, MDP Chair of LGBT & Allies Caucus

With elections a priority for the chair of the Michigan Democratic Party and its LGBT & Allies Caucus, Mark LaChey is setting his sights not only on 2019, but to 2020 and beyond. He said that he’s looking to put diverse candidates front and center in the coming years.
“My focus is going to be on recruiting LGBTQ and especially women and persons of color; to emphasize the ‘L’ and the ‘T’ and the ‘Q’ and POC candidates,” LaChey said. “Especially for the legislature to run in the state house in 2020. With the draconian term limits, we have the real prospect of going back to zero in the not-too-distant future with respect to representation in the state House. We always need to be refreshing our candidate pool, and, additionally, not only finding those people but generating support in terms of money and expertise to mentoring to help those people get elected.”
Setting his sights to a national scale, he said that an LGBTQ Michigander running for Congress is in sight.
“The entire state House is up for re-election in 2020. I look within the four corners of Michigan primarily, but if we had a gay person who wanted to run for Congress, I think there’s some opportunities there,” he said. “I think there are some districts that are more purple than they were, two, four, six, years ago. I think that would be phenomenal to add an LGBT member of Congress in Michigan. I think it’s past due, just like it was past due for us to have a statewide elected LGBT person before Dana Nessel.”


Travis Radina – Jim Toy Community Center Board President

For more than a quarter of a century, Ann Arbor’s Jim Toy Community Center has been a beacon of hope for the Southeast Michigan community. In 2018 the center received unexpected news that the landlords of its current location would be selling the building. Despite this sudden knowledge, Board President Travis Radina said that programming will continue as the center focuses on its move, though it will be the first priority coming into the new year.
“That’s the first thing that we have to take on. So, as a result, we’re not going to focus too much on expanding our calendar this year,” Radina said. “We’re going to make sure that we’re going to have our marquee events like pride and the Jim Toy Birthday Bash and continue to, as long as we can, provide that physical space for all of our partner groups to meet and utilize the facilities.”
Commenting on the results of the midterm election, Radina said that he’s excited to work in a state that will have many more pro-LGBTQ officials in 2019.
“The Jim Toy Center is nonpartisan and non-political as a nonprofit organization, so we’re not as much focused on the blue wave versus the red wave so much as we are focused on candidates who are tolerant and accepting of the LGBT community,” he said. “And with the election of Dana Nessel as attorney general, we’re finally going to have an attorney general who understands and supports us and is part of our community — and that’s coming off of an incredibly hostile attorney general’s office. So having Dana Nessel is an incredible accomplishment and we’re looking forward so much to working with her.”


Angela Perone – Director of SAGE Metro Detroit

SAGE Metro Detroit is an affiliate of the national Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders organization that is the nation’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to aiding the lives of LGBTQ older adults. Angela Perone serves as its director and has her sights set on expanding existing programming in 2019.
“Our main priority is to expand and to continue to do the work that we’re doing but doing it bigger and better and to unroll new programs and new initiatives for LGBTQ older adults,” Perone said. “For the programming aspect we have our Friendly Caller program. It’s essentially a program that matches LGBT older adults who may be at risk for social isolation or are currently experiencing social isolation to other LGBT people or allies. And that’s already shown promise in reducing social isolation and depression as well.”
SAGE Metro is also collaboration with Wayne State University and Corktown Health Center for an even bigger project.
“We’re teaming up to help implement different programmatic initiatives to help open a health clinic in Metro Detroit that’s focused on providing care to older LGBT adults,” she said. “It’s the first of its kind in Michigan and we received support from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund to do that. … Then we’re also going to be training a minimum of 15 organizations through this initiative that will be serving this new health clinic for LGBT older adults. We’re excited about that new initiative and it’s a two-year program that’s going to start right at the beginning of 2019.”
More information about programs can be found at


Jay Kaplan – Staff Attorney for ACLU of Michigan

In 2018 the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan had a full plate working to defend and advocate for LGBTQ civil rights across the state. Staff Attorney Jay Kaplan predicts that 2019 will be just as involved, especially leading up to the 2020 elections, but he is excited about potential collaboration opportunities that have sprung up since the midterms.
“Among the things that I’m hopeful about is possibly working with the secretary of state to develop a more inclusive policy for transgender people to get more accurate identity documents for them,” Kaplan said. “Hopefully the governor, through her appointments and in terms of policies, will be more supportive of LGBT people and their families. And then for the attorney general, there is an opportunity to look at current laws and ways that our courts might have handled LGBT-related issues — including how we recognize parents and families and how we will possibly request attorney general opinions on that.”
Kaplan also emphasized that as hopeful as he is, issues like religiously based service refusals are not going to go away in the new year.
“I see that as a very big threat to LGBT rights and I think that’s going to continue to be a priority to the ACLU,” Kaplan said. “So we’re going to want to be involved in those situations and, in some situations, possibly intervene where someone has challenged an LGBT-supportive policy as violating that person’s LGBT religious freedom. We have a presidential administration that’s very supportive of the ability to use one’s religious beliefs to exempt people from complying with civil rights laws.”


Roz Keith – Founder, Board President of Stand With Trans

Created in 2015, the nonprofit Stand With Trans has dedicated itself to working with transgender youth and families who are struggling to cope with their child’s transition. The organization’s mission is to provide tools to empower, support and validate anyone needing services.
“We’re the only ones in the state of Michigan who has this particular mission so what we’re looking forward to doing is expanding the way we connect and communicate with our target audience. It seems that there’s a group kind of in the middle that gets forgotten and that’s literally the middle school kids,” Keith said. “We have things for young children and for teens, but not for sixth, seventh and eighth grade. They’re too old for the little kids and they’re not quite old enough to participate in the conversation and support environments for the older kids. They kind of get left in the dust so we’re exploring how we can better serve that population as well as continuing to educate within the community and expanding who we talk to.”
Beyond expanding the supports for that demographic, Keith said that 2019’s focus will also be directed toward service providers and other community leaders.
“We’ll continue that educational path as well as continuing to teach anyone who is connected to families who have transgender youth,” she said. “So that might be a pediatrician, another medical professional, a mental health practitioner, a teacher, a coach — we want to make sure that we expand our audiences again with the premise of the more people we can teach the more acceptance there will be out there.”


Roland Stringfellow – Senior Pastor at MCC Detroit

Rev. Dr. Roland Stringfellow, among other titles, serves as the senior pastor and teacher at the LGBTQ-affirming Metropolitan Community Church of Detroit. When asked about the church’s priorities in 2019, Stringfellow said its focus will be community outreach.
“We want to help really connect more with the community. We feel like our congregation is one of the best-kept secrets out there. We want to break that, because we are inclusive of all individuals,” he said. “We’re even trying to break the gay church label, meaning that we’re going to be more of an inclusive [space]. Meaning that if you’re allied-identified or transgender-identified, no matter your race or ethnicity, we want to create a place that’s comfortable and where people can really connect with God’s spirit.”
When asked about his thoughts on the impact of the many pro-LGBTQ candidates elected during the midterms in 2018, Stringfellow said that his hope is that their work will reach his congregants.
“I believe it will help us as a community in terms of safety and access and we are hoping and trusting that Elliott-Larsen will be addressed,” he said. “But beyond that, there are real issues that impact my parishioners such as health care and adoption bans and things of that nature that have a direct impact on the livelihood of those who I am honored to serve. So, I am hoping that more types of legislation that is pro-LGBT would go forth.”


Katie Scott – Washtenaw County Board Commissioner

Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners’ first lesbian commissioner Katie Scott described her win this November as a victory for the blue wave, women’s wave and progressive wave. Advocating for labor unions and improving public health are two of her top priorities in the coming year, she said, in addition to safeguarding the rights of LGBTQ county workers.
“We’re seeing these increased attacks on the LGBTQ community, particularly the trans community,” Scott said. “I would really like to the see contract protections instituted for those workers across the county. When you put that into a contract that’s legally binding, there are protections for LGBTQ people against harassment at work … having those protections can serve to make them feel comfortable, happy and productive at work.”
Scott will continue to work as a nurse at the University of Michigan and serve on the Michigan Nurses Association board into the new year. Additionally, she hopes to pursue a leadership position on the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners alongside Jason Morgan, the board’s first openly gay commissioner.
“It’s fun to think about the members who are LGBT also being in leadership positions on the county board,” she said. “I love what it says to young people who are growing up to see out and active individuals serving not only in politics but in leadership positions, and who embrace who they are. It’s a positive message, especially for young people who feel isolated and scared of the future.”


Jason Morgan – Washtenaw County Board Commissioner

Environmental sustainability, government transparency and LGBTQ visibility are just some of the goals Washtenaw County Board member Jason Morgan is looking to check off before the end of his second term. Morgan made history in 2016 when he became the first openly gay man to be elected to the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners. He ran another successful campaign this year, winning 89 percent of the vote in November.
“It was really encouraging to win the election with 89 percent of the vote even though I had opposition on the ballot,” Morgan said. “It’s nice to see the constituents still support me and the things I advocate for.”
Morgan is a strong advocator for transparency and accountability in local government. In his next term, he plans to work on initiatives aimed at increasing civic engagement with the board.
“We’ve fallen into a place where we assume we’re doing the right things but don’t allow the community to see the decision-making process, to give input throughout the process,” Morgan said. “I want to change policies to say that we’ll have more community engagement and openness.”
Morgan is also on a mission to decrease Washtenaw’s carbon footprint. While the board pledged to prioritize environmental sustainability efforts outlined in the Paris accord, Morgan said an actual plan of action has yet to be formulated.
“By carbon footprint, I mean the energy use in buildings, facilities, the lights and electricity,” he said. “There are more efforts we can take to reduce the carbon footprint by building more sustainable facilities and tapping into other more renewable power sources.”


Rachel Crandall-Crocker – Executive Director of Transgender Michigan

A registered social worker and licensed psychotherapist, Rachel Crandall-Crocker is also an international transgender activist and the founder and organizer of the International Transgender Day of Visibility. Asked about her 2019 goals in her role as Transgender Michigan executive director, she said she feels “full of promise” but ready for action.
“We are already coordinating with the ACLU to work with the new governor and others to make life easier for the transgender communities of Michigan. Also, this coming year we plan on opening even more chapters throughout Michigan and extending our network even further,” she said. “The biggest hurdles of the following year will be whatever the administration in Washington does next to harm our community. We must be ready and we must be unified.”
Crandall-Crocker added that the 10th anniversary of the International Transgender Day of Visibility is coming on March 31 of 2019. It was that holiday that helped members of the transgender community feel safer, more seen and heard across the world — even in places where being openly transgender is illegal.
“This is a major milestone of our community. Since its inception, it has brought the transgender communities of the world together in ways I’ve never seen before. I am doubly delighted by this as the founder and the organizer. Transgender Michigan will also be running a statewide rally on the Capitol Steps in Lansing for the 10th Anniversary on Saturday, March 30.”


Kevin Terrell Heard – President of the Board of Directors, Detroit Regional LGBT Chamber of Commerce

The Detroit Regional LGBT Chamber of Commerce’s mission is “to promote and empower our Metropolitan Detroit LGBT, allied business members, non-profit members, corporate partners and their employees through leadership, advocacy and education.” In hose role as president, Kevin Terrell Heard says he is gearing up for a year of reaching out to those corporate partners, allied business members and other supporters.
“Our goals for 2019 are to increase awareness about our valuable network of LGBT professionals and business owners and increase the knowledge and importance of LGBT business certification,” he said. “We are working to bring respected people in business to come to speak and/or mentor our members. We want to work with the governor’s office and the state legislators to include LGBT-owned businesses apart of the state procurement requirements.”
Heard says he hopes that members of the Chamber will come together to form even stronger bonds.
“Ultimately, we want our members to speak about their needs and come out to meet each other. Metro Detroit has a valuable LGBT ecosystem and the Chamber is the natural leader in this aspect,” he said. “Everyone should look to us as to what is happening in the LGBT Business community.”


Mary Barr – Treasurer of Fair Michigan

Fair Michigan’s goals are to ensure that in the era post marriage equality that LGBTQ peoples’ rights are still being advocated for and affirmed through the prosecution of those who commit crimes against the LGBTQ community. Mary Barr is treasurer for the group and says that in 2019 the organization will reaffirm their main priorities.
“As part of this advocacy, we will continue to provide support to victims of and witnesses to these crimes. Thanks to newly formed partnerships this support will include emergency housing and counseling. We also will continue to provide extensive assistance in navigating the criminal justice system,” she said. “Distrust and misunderstanding between the LGBTQ community and the law enforcement community often hamper the reporting, investigation and prosecution of crimes against LGBTQ persons. To bridge this divide, Fair Michigan provides Cultural Competency Training to law enforcement, educators and businesses around the state.”
Barr added that after the midterm election that resulted in Dana Nessel, the group’s current president, winning the seat of attorney general re-affirmed the group’s dedication to providing their services. In addition, she said they are welcoming to all candidates who are pro-equality.
“We support efforts explicitly to include sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression as protected categories in the Michigan Constitution, the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, and the Ethnic Intimidation Act,” she said. “We also support efforts to ban ‘conversion therapy’ and to increase resources available to battle anti-LGBTQ hate crimes. In the future, we would like to see the blue wave supplemented by a rainbow wave of political activism in support of pro-equality candidates, especially from within the LGBTQ community.”


Jake Cunningham – Oakland County Circuit Court Judge

A graduate of the Western Michigan University Law School, Cunningham has spent the past three-and-a-half years serving as a judicial staff attorney under Oakland County Circuit Judge Mary Ellen Brennan. The position has given him experience in the three dockets of the circuit court: the Civil/Criminal Division, Business Court and the Family Division. He said that in 2019 he will “hit the ground running.”
“The people elected me and put their trust in me to be to be a prepared, knowledgeable, compassionate and empathetic judge. I will be serving in our court’s family division and I promise to embody these qualities on the bench,” he said. “It feels like a natural progression. Judges have taught me knowing it’s my passion and goal to be a judge. Brennan has been really gracious in letting me know her process, what’s going on in her mind and what she’s looking for. I’ve been taught by the best, so I’m ready to go. … I will also attend ‘New Judges School’ the first week of January and be planning my swearing-in ceremony.”
Though his position is non-partisan, commenting on the “blue wave” he said it was, “an expression used to energize voters and activists.”
“The 2018 election saw an unprecedented number of candidates from very diverse backgrounds, locally and nationally, running for office,” he said. “I feel honored to be elected as the first openly LGBTQ person to the Oakland Circuit Court and one of only a handful of openly gay judges serving in our State.”


Patrick Yankee – Chief Development Officer at Corktown Health Center

Corktown Health Center developed into reality from the idea of an LGBTQ-focused primary health care center five years ago.
“After 30 years of providing services to thousands of persons living with HIV, it was clear that more needed to be done to address the lack of primary care that is focused on the LGBTQ community,” said Corktown organizers. “Unlike other metropolitan areas, Southeastern Michigan lacked an agency that was committed to the health of the LGBTQ community.”
Patrick Yankee said that in 2019 the goal is simple: expansion.
“In 2018 we served over 525 people from the LGBTQ community at Corktown Health Center. My hope for 2019 is that we double this number by this time next year with expanded primary care, aging services and improved access to behavioral health and preventative services like PrEP and Cancer Screening,” Yankee said. “As always, managing our work with limited resources will be the biggest challenge. We are thrilled to have been awarded new funding from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund to begin providing formal geriatric services at Corktown Health Center, which we look forward to doing in collaboration with SAGE Metro Detroit. This is a first for our state and we are honored that the Health Fund is supporting this important step.”


Tracy Hall – Kalamazoo County Commissioner

A Kalamazoo resident for more than 20 years, Kalamazoo County Commissioner Tracy Hall represents the 3rd District. Among her other priorities, Hall has said she is dedicated to increasing intergovernmental collaboration and cooperation and enhancing the overall quality of life for all the residents of Kalamazoo. In 2019, she said she wants to focus on making it known that LGBTQ people have a voice in county government.
“To also make sure that I continue to help move Kalamazoo county and our various policies to reflect that we are a welcoming and inclusive county,” Hall said. “To look for areas where there are gaps and assess how, as county government, we can close those gaps. I will also push our state elected officials to amend our civil rights act and to work toward other policies that are beneficial to the LGBTQ community.”
Hall added that she’s excited for the pro-LGBTQ equality candidates who were elected across Michigan.
“Obviously, I am super excited about the big wins at the state level, but here in Kalamazoo we had an impressive blue wave. The County Board now has eight Democrats. In fact, two of my incumbent Republican colleagues lost. One is the current chair of the Kalamazoo GOP and the other is a long-term politician from this area. Those were significant wins for us,” Hall said. “Just as important and big was the victory of State Sen.-elect, Sean McCann, who defeated well known State Sen. Margaret O’Brien.”
She said she is hopeful that in 2019 the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act will be amended.


Jerry Peterson – Executive Director at Ruth Ellis Center

Established 18 years ago, the goal of the Ruth Ellis Center is to provide trauma-informed services for homeless, runaway and at-risk LGBTQ youth and young adults of color. Today it serves as the only residential foster care program specifically for LGBTQ youth in the entire Midwest. Jerry Peterson called 2018 and “extraordinary year” for the center and is dedicated to finding new “and innovative ways to ensure LGBTQ youth can be safe and supported in all systems of care.”
“From healthcare to housing, child welfare to employment, REC’s unwavering commitment to the young people they serve has resulted in unparalleled growth, and new opportunities to have an even greater impact on outcomes for LGBTQ youth nationwide,” Peterson said. “Even still, if asked, REC will tell you that it is the legacy of Ruth Ellis herself, and her commitment to the Detroit community she loved that inspires them to keep forging ahead.”
This means that 2019 will face a period of expansion.
“First, the Center is looking at the full housing continuum for young people experiencing homelessness or currently residing in unstable housing. REC will begin to look at ways it can assist the shelter system in providing safer and better outcomes for LGBTQ youth in crisis, particularly in the winter months when few options are available,” he said. “And while affirming shelter programs are critical, the Center also recognizes the need to expand housing options for LGBTQ young people by looking into scattered site apartments and developing a short-term host home program while helping young people find more permanent supportive housing.”


Erin Knott – Interim Executive Director at Equality Michigan

Originally established in 1991 as the Triangle Foundation, Equality Michigan has been dedicated for 25 years to helping Michigan’s LGBTQ community achieve basic fairness and equality. Appointed interim executive director earlier this year, Erin Knott said that 2019 will be integral for increasing anti-violence and victim service programming.
“In 2018 we worked on over 400 cases of discrimination, violence and harassment. We will maintain our pop-up office hours across the state and will be expanding our current efforts so that we are training more organizations and helping more members of the LGBTQ community in all corners of the state,” Knott said. “Our political program launched a membership program in 2018 and will continue to recruit new members to the Equality Michigan Action Network. We also piloted an interrogated voter engagement strategy in Southwest and West Michigan, which positions the organization to do more year-round voter education and mobilization. In 2019, we will engage LGBTQ volunteers and members in municipal races across the state to ensure we are supporting pro-equality candidates at the local level.”
Finally, Knott said that EQMI’s legislative agenda will include the following in 2019:

1.) Having a more inclusive policy for gender marker changes on licenses and State IDs and perhaps a third option regarding gender
2.) Ensuring that the Michigan Dept. of Civil Rights can continue taking complaints of LGBT Discrimination
3.) Ensuring that Michigan’s Medicaid Programs do not discriminate against transgender recipients and their medically necessary care
4.) Re-introducing bill to amend Elliott-Larsen in the Michigan legislature
5.) Re-introducing bill to ban conversion therapy in the Michigan legislature
6.) Ensuring equitable parent protections for LGBT parents

The photographs in this section were courtesy photographs provided by the interviewees or existing BTL Photos.

About the Author:

Eve Kucharski’s work has spanned the realms of current events and entertainment. She’s chatted with stars like Wanda Sykes, Margaret Cho and Tyler Oakley as well as political figures like Gloria Steinem, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel. Her coverage of the November 2018 elections was also featured in a NowThis News report.
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