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Nearly 1,000 people showed up on the steps of the Michigan Capitol Saturday as part of the annual pride march and rally event, while 3,000 showed up in Lansing’s hip Old Town to drink, dance and be merry as part of the annual pride festival.
At the capitol, ralliers were greeted by a mass union ceremony conducted by Rev. Kent Lederer of Unity of Greater Lansing.
Among the speakers at the rally were Diane Goddeeris, mayor of East Lansing; Joe MacDonald, a representative from Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero’s office; Emily Dievendorf, policy director at Equality Michigan; R. Cole Bouck, president of the Michigan Gay Officers Action League (MI-GOAL); Kevin Epling, co-director of Bully Police USA; and actor James Duke Mason, who was brought in by the Obama campaign as a surrogate to address the gathering.
Goddeeris reminded participants the city of East Lansing earlier this year, celebrated the 40th anniversary of the nation’s first ever law to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but noted not enough communities had followed suit.
“Today, 21 states, the District of Columbia and over 141 cities prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation” she said. “But 18 cities in Michigan? C’mon!”
For Bouck, the rally was one of noting history. As he spoke, he told the rally how in the 80s and 90s exiting the gay bars on Michigan Avenue often meant having members of the Lansing Police Department “toy” with you.
“That’s the historical context of what you saw coming up Michigan Avenue today,” Bouck told the rally, referring to the contingent of officers and vehicles from Lansing Police, Ingham County Sheriff Department and East Lansing Police, as well as the Lansing Fire department. “That’s big.”
Introducing herself as “your big bi lobbyist,” Emily Dievendorf, policy director at Equality Michigan laid out the last year in Michigan politics. It was a year of antigay legislative moves, punctuated with legislation that banned domestic partner benefits for public employees and passage of a bill to allow counseling students to refuse to counsel persons with whom they hold significant religious differences.
But Dievendorf sounded a note of optimism, in a year punctuated with such loses.
“We are on the cusp of equality,” she said. “But the closer we come, the taller the walls and the thicker the walls are they make on our way to equality.” Dievendorf asked rally participants to vow to each other to register and to vote in the coming elections.
“A voice is progress. Many voices is many votes, coming together,” she said, “it’s a game changer.”