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Local LGBT Activists Will Match Final Donation to the ACLU of Michigan

By |2016-01-07T09:00:00-05:00January 7th, 2016|Michigan, News|

BY AJ TRAGER

DETROIT – Two local LGBT activists will match the final donation collected for the ACLU Equality Challenge: Centennial Campaign at the end of January.
Michigan activists Howard Israel and Henry Grix have challenged the Michigan LGBT community to donate $50,000 to the ACLU Centennial Campaign’s Equality Challenge in support of the LGBT work done across the state and will match the final donations up to $50,000.
Israel and Grix are longtime supporters of LGBT organizations and nonprofits and believe the work of the ACLU to be pivotal in changing hearts, minds and policies when it comes to LGBT equality. The couple wanted to incentivize other donors who had not yet provided monetary support to the organization.
So far the ACLU has raised 30 percent of the $50,000 goal from just seven donors and is looking for more people to pledge their support for the organization’s work.
“The approach (for the match program) was largely inspired by Howard and Henry and a lot of the activism and the work that they have been doing for so long,” said Angela Gabridge, centennial campaign officer for the ACLU of Michigan.
Israel regularly sends emails filled with articles and commentary to LGBT activists in the state to help spread information faster and more directly than it may be when shared through Facebook or Twitter. In 2004 when the anti-LGBT organizations were fighting to ensure that the Michigan Marriage Amendment, which defined marriage as between a man and woman, was passed into law at the ballot box, it was Israel and Grix who helped get the word out by sending letters and emails to the community along with providing major financial support.
“We know that this (a match program) is an effective model. And we know that this is how you effectively set that foundation in place to change hearts and minds. It worked for marriage (equality). When Evan Wolfson (president of Freedom To Marry) changed the approach on marriage to begin talking about love and committment and what it meant for people’s lives versus talking about the abstract concepts like equality or bigger picture type things, it was the personal touch that really resonated with people,” Gabridge told BTL.
The ACLU brings more LGBT cases and advocacy initiatives than any other organization and has done so since its founding. In 2001 the ACLU of Michigan hired Jay Kaplan as the LGBT Legal Project staff attorney. Since his appointment, Kaplan has defended the validity of second parent adoption, fought Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban and has worked on cases involving LGBT minors and police activity targeting gay men.
Last year the ACLU of Michigan launched the Transgender Advocacy Project, a program that brings together transgender individuals and allies from across the state to engage in outreach that will further the public’s understanding of what it means to be transgender.
Headed up by west Michigan advocate Amy Hunter, TAP’s Advocacy University project is nearing the end of its initial training. Participants will be provided the training and resources necessary to allow them to lobby in Lansing for trans rights and equality and educate the public about the discrimination.
In an effort to extend its reach, the ACLU of Michigan expanded five years ago and opened up an office on the west side of the state.
“We don’t yet have the same kind of presence that we have in southeast Michigan. So this (Centennial Campaign) is an effort to provide a vehicle for reaching out to some of our supporters and prospective supporters on the west side of the state as well to incentivize their participation,” Gabridge explained.
This year the ACLU of Michigan will continue fighting for statewide LGBT protections by challenging the statewide adoption ban, a law signed in early June 2015 allowing adoption agencies who receive state funding to discriminate against potential LGBT adoptive families; challenging efforts to pass a Religious Freedom Restoration Act; challenging the Michigan Secretary of State policy that makes changing someone’s gender marker on state identification difficult; and working to amend the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.
The Centennial Campaign is part of a national ACLU campaign that started earlier this year. The ACLU of Michigan has set its goal substantially higher than the national goal.
To donate to the Equality Challenge, call Angela Gabridge at 313-578-6815 or email her at [email protected].

About the Author:

Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.
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