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It’s been an historic week, one filled with enormous emotions for LGBT Americans. In Kalamazoo we saw 65 percent of its citizens vote ‘NO’ when it came to discrimination for their LGBT neighbors. The forces of hate where turned back in the largest numbers yet for a city wide ballot measure. Thousands of hours of hard work – the one-to-one kind – like talking to neighbors, co-workers, family and friends paid off. Plus, Kalamazoo elected its first openly-gay man to the city commission, Terry Kuseske.
Election night also made history in Detroit where citizens voted in Charles Pugh as their new city council president. Pugh is the first openly-gay candidate to be seated on the city council – historic indeed, the kind that brings tears of joy and promise to so many. Detroiters have said yes to the promise of young, talented people who, like Pugh, have stepped up to say, ‘I am ready to serve’ and make a difference as we push through to a new, brighter time for the city and region.
This week we also watched President Obama sign the federal hate crimes legislation, which languished shamefully in the Republican controlled congress for so many years. We send a heartfelt thanks to all of the Michigan congressional delegation who worked so hard to make this day happen, and especially to Senator Carl Levin whose work was instrumental in making certain the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Bill was finally made the law of the land.
As we go to press it looks like Washington state held up domestic partner benefits for all of its LGBT citizens and Houston voted in an openly-lesbian mayor. All of these mark progress for so many of us.
And yet … there is Maine. And like California last November, people were allowed to once again vote on the civil rights of a minority. Maine voted for discrimination of its LGBT families Tuesday. Here in Michigan we know the sting all to well. With so many states now in the minus column for marriage equality, it appears that for justice to prevail we will need to push for a strategic federal solution from the U.S. Supreme Court.
Our national movement needs to replicate the energy, commitment, patience and determination exhibited by Kuseske in Kalamazoo, Pugh in Detroit, Jim Rasor in Royal Oak and all the volunteer activists of One Kalamazoo. The loss is Maine is a painful setback, but we are confident that we are on the right side of history in our struggle for full equality. We will get there together, over time, if we keep going forward in places like our cities of Michigan.