Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
In April of 1997, Sean Kosofsky was then a recent graduate of Oakland University with a degree in political science. On the twenty-third day of that month, something happened which charted his course for the next eleven and half years — he stood with former State Rep. Lynne Martinez, and then executive director of Triangle Foundation, Jeffrey Montgomery for the announcement of a bill to amend the state’s hate crime law to include crimes against persons based on their real or perceived sexual orientation.
“I became a lobbyist,” Kosofsky said. “That was the beginning of the birth of our (Triangle’s) legislative program.”
But all that is coming to end. Kosofsky is leaving Triangle and his home for 32 years – the Detroit metro area – to head to North Carolina.
“I love the Triangle Foundation and I love the people of Michigan. It doesn’t have to do with this economy really. My partner has put his career on hold for mine. So now it is my turn. He has been offered a position in North Carolina,” he said. “Both of us wanted to stay here.”
Kosofsky said his partner has been looking for a job in his professional field for three years, but has been unsuccessful in landing one in the state. His partner has been willing to support Kosofsky in his work with Triangle Foundation, but when an offer came from North Carolina, they both decided it was time to move on – together. No departure date has been firmly set, though Kosofsky said he thinks he will be out of the state by the beginning of the fall legislative season. “I want to leave at the same time as my partner so we can do this journey together. I am going to support him,” said Kosofsky.
“It’s bitter sweet because Triangle is going through a lot of changes and I want to be there,” he said, citing the organization’s search for a new executive director and the upcoming national elections. “Personally all my friends and family are here. I know very few people in North Carolina. All my work has been built here. I am comfortable with change, but I have also been able to build a fantastic and comfortable position in the movement. I don’t like saying good bye. That is really painful and personally difficult.”
Since Kosofsky became the full time director of policy at Triangle, he has worked tirelessly in building relationships with politicians and lobbyist in Lansing. And proof of that work is clear.
“No anti-gay laws have passed since our legislative program was developed in 1997,” Kosofsky said. “I think there is a correlation there. We were able to stop the worst of the worst stuff from becoming law. Although we have not had that success on the ballot, we have with the legislature.”
He said he specifically recalls rallying legislators and members of the LBGT community and allies to defeat a proposed marriage law in the legislature, which later became the 2004 Marriage Amendment to the state Constitution.
“I do think our community failed to support the ballot measure in 2004,” he said. “I dont think we ran a good campaign. Part of that was that we got started late and we did not have the money. We had the second best numbers in the country despite the fact we were broke. A lot of things fell apart. Our community had been doing so much work well, (but) we had not experienced fighting for our families statewide. I think that is a place we failed. We may not have been able to stop or prevent it, but we could have done better.”
“I think out community organizations could have done a better job years ago in stopping the infighting,” he said, continuing to address the Marriage Amendment campaign.
“We made a commitment to get to know each other as friends not just activists (following the loss of the ballot measure). A lot of the infighting people hear about in our community could have been prevented. We are working together better now than ever before. We could have done a better job at working together in a more collaborative way (back then).”
Jay Kaplan, from the ACLU of Michigan’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Project, has worked arm and arm with Kosofsky for years. He said Kosofsky is a true leader, and one that “always gave 100 percent, to everything.” He said the drive Kosofsky brings to the movement will be missed, but echoing Kosofsky’s own thoughts, he believes that new leaders will step up to fill the void left by Kosofsky’s exit.
Kaplan also noted the importance for the reason why Kosofsky is leaving the organization he has spent over a decade building.
“It’s very sweet that he wants to be there for his partner who has been there supporting his career,” Kaplan said. “It is touching that he has decided this is an important decision in his life. It shows the human side of being an advocate and fighting the cause and I think that is so important to have that balance. You can get so involved that you wake up one day and say where is the rest of my life?”