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Equality Michigan’s fall reception will take place Friday, Sept. 13 at the Roostertail in Detroit. The theme of this year’s reception is Mission Equality.
“We decided that Mission Equality set the frame of our specific goals coming out in 2019 to be bigger and bolder,” said Equality Michigan Executive Director Erin Knott. “All of our programming and all of our work is aimed at making gains so that members of the LGBTQ community have full equality in the state of Michigan.”
At present, Knott admitted, the LGBTQ community has quite a way to go toward achieving that goal.
“Michigan is one of the remaining states that does not have a statewide civil rights law that protects members of the LGBTQ community,” Knott said. “Our Elliott-Larsen civil rights law does not include sexual orientation and gender identity. Plus, Michigan is still a state that allows for conversion therapy.”
Achieving the goal of equality has become increasingly more difficult in the current political climate, Knott said.
“We live in a climate now where hatred and bigotry are being legitimatized again and our community is walking around with bull’s-eyes on our backs because people don’t agree with or understand who we are or who we love. So, we’ve seen an uptick in violence, and we’ve seen an uptick in bullying and discrimination. It’s happening all over because of the tone that’s set from the top. This administration has been very hostile to our community.”
Helping to achieve the goal of LGBTQ equality in the state is Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, who will be delivering the keynote address at the recepton.
“She is the first openly gay statewide elected official,” Knott said. “We’re excited about the work that she has done through her office in the first few months of 2019, work that has championed our rights whether it’s in foster care or adoption. She’s been a champion as it relates to our mission and the tone of the event, which is Mission Equality.”
Another champion is Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who will provide opening remarks at the reception.
“We’re excited that she’s going to be there,” Knott said. “She’s going to be a part of the cocktail hour as everyone is arriving and getting their table assignments. Then she’ll give opening remarks.”
Knott said that response to the reception has been incredible — it’s almost sold out — and that the response speaks to the condition of Equality Michigan, which has struggled to find its footing in recent years.
“We are thriving,” Knott said. “The organization is in a very solid position. Our team is expanding our reach. We are moving into the St. Joe/Benton Harbor area and we have pop-ups across the state. So, again, we are thriving. We have a great network of volunteers and relationships all across the state of Michigan. So, if folks are experiencing a crisis across the state, we have a system in place to help 24/7.”
One of Equality Michigan’s greatest accomplishments this year, said Knott, is the relationships the agency has been developing across the state.
“We’re working with the community centers and agencies with similar missions, but we’re also working with government agencies and municipalities and organizations that don’t have an LGBTQ mission specifically but recognize that maybe some of their members or constituents are LGBTQ. We’ve been building coalitions in communities so we can respond to legislative attacks and we’re getting ready for 2020.”
Tickets for the reception start at $175 and sponsorship options go up to $10,000. The cocktail hour will begin at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7. The Roostertail is located at 100 Marquette Drive in Detroit. For more information, visit equalitymi.org.
This Year’s EQMI Dinner Awardees include:
Judge William McConico. He will receive the 2019 Catalyst Award for ensuring that trans women who fall victim to hate-based violence get justice.
Laura Goos, city commissioner and mayor pro tem of St. Joseph, and Greg Fulmer, both Whirlpool employees. They will receive the 2019 Activist Award for their role in the passage of St. Joseph’s non-discrimination ordinance.
Between The Lines Co-Publishers Jan Stevenson and Susan Horowitz. They will receive the 2019 Community Builder Award for their decades-long commitment to the LGBTQ community in Michigan.