DETROIT – Hotter Than July’s 18th annual daylong conference, called The Gathering on LGBT Issues, took place Friday afternoon at the U of M – Detroit Center and the most talked about portion of the day was undoubtedly lunch with Detroit’s mayoral candidates. Fifteen candidates were invited to participate. Four showed up. They include former Detroit corporation counsel Krystal Crittendon, former Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan, State Rep. Fred Durhal and community activist Jean Vortkamp.
Asked about their connection to the LGBT community, each candidate tried to convince the crowd of their credentials.
“Everybody gets to choose a life partner that you love,” said Duggan, who said his sister-in-law is a lesbian. “I see people as people and I think people should be treated based on their own merits.”
Crittendon was perhaps the most blunt.
“I don’t care who my heterosexual friends are sleeping with, so I definitely don’t care who my homosexual friends are sleeping with,” she said. “I’m concerned with improving the quality of life for everyone.”
Vortkamp, who runs a non-profit organization, said she had previously worked with the Ruth Ellis Center and Durhal, who came late to the luncheon, was not present to the answer the question.
When asked about stopping discrimination against gays in the city, Crittenton and Duggan took the lead.
“The problem is not the laws,” said Crittendon. “The problem is we do not have leadership standing up to it when we see discrimination taking place.”
Duggan said there would be no tolerance for anti-LGBT discrimination should he take the mayor’s office.
“Reaching out is what I do by nature,” he said. “There are a number of members of the LGBT community who are members are my campaign in leadership roles, and I expect it to be the same in my administration.”
In addition to the mayoral candidate forum, the conference featured afternoon workshop sessions and an awards presentation. Mariam Noland of the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan, Ann Perrault of Avalon International Breads and Howard Isreal and Henry Grix were presented with special recognitions for their service to the community.
“We feel that we get back more than anything we do through the energy, perseverance and valor of the African-American community,” Grix said.
The Gathering was chaired by Men of Color founder Cornelius Wilson and Kick Executive Director Curtis Lipscomb, who took time out to comment on HTJ’s 18 year history.
“In 1996,” said Lipscomb, “some people dared to say we want to create a presence in the city of Detroit and be recognized as our authentic selves.”