You don’t need us to tell you how big the New York news is. We’re sure you can feel it. This is an enormous success for our national community, and the back story about how the vote took place is truly remarkable. A democratic governor whipped LGBT activists in line, used money from a group of wealthy Republican donors, and convinced the Republican state Senators who were on the fence to vote for equality. This is teamwork at its absolute finest, and its energy is sweeping the nation. So many of us are asking: If New York can do it, can’t we, too?
Here in Michigan, we can. Just look around you.
The truth is, people in Michigan are doing wonderful work for our community all of the time. In this very issue of the newspaper, you’ll learn about teenagers who went face-to-face with their lawmakers to explain just how important it is for our state to have an anti-bullying law – and not just a general law but one that protects all students. These teenagers, who aren’t even out of high school, who may not even be able to drive, have already accomplished one of the most basic civil activities that many adults never achieve: They have told their elected officials what matters. This takes tremendous courage, and we here at BTL are so proud of them.
Another fantastic movement featured in this week’s news comes from Holland, Mich. Earlier this month, the Holland City Council voted not to approve job and housing protections for LGBT citizens. The vote was slim – 5-4, with the mayor casting the deciding “no” – and utterly disheartening, especially after the council was overwhelmed by a show of support from the community. But a large group of people in West Michigan are making their disappointment heard: They’ve formed a group called “Until Love Is =” and they are boycotting any business who didn’t support the ordinance. This means that businesses that don’t support LGBT protections are going to feel the financial loss of support from a community who truly cares about all of its members. This means that the Holland City Council won’t be able to walk away from its disappointing decision – but will likely be contacted by concerned business owners who are already struggling with our tough economy. This is a fantastic example of people demanding equality and making their voices heard.
On the east side of the state, Affirmations community center has finally found an executive director. This means that the center, which provides our community with wonderful services – from the annual inclusive Youth Prom to affirming counselors – will find itself on even more solid ground. The center has struggled, and thanks to the hard work of Interim Executive Director Kevin Howley and the board, the center is getting back on track. We know the new Executive Director Dave Garcia will do a fabulous job continuing the momentum that Kevin has started.
And as for the rest of us, we can look around and see the momentum coming from New York. More importantly, we can feel it radiating from the work in our own communities. Whether it’s from the louder and prouder Motor City Pride in Detroit, teenagers demanding change or a community striking back, the momentum is here. So let’s keep it going!