Alanna Maguire unveiled her priorities as president of Fair Michigan recently.
“I am honored and eager to continue the extraordinary work of Fair Michigan, and I look forward to expanding our services and programs to communities across the state,” said Maguire, a Fair Michigan trustee who was appointed as president by the board in January, succeeding her wife, Dana Nessel, who is now the state’s attorney general.
For the last four years, prior to accepting this position, Maguire has worked in the renewable energy sector as the finance and human resources manager for an international engineering consultancy. In her early 30s, she manages all administrative, financial and human resources issues for her offices located in Plymouth, Washington, D.C. and Mexico City.
Maguire is a graduate of the University of Michigan. She also holds a Master of Public Policy degree from Michigan State University and graduate certificates in Homeland Security and Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysis. After graduate school, Maguire served as the project manager for the National Marriage Challenge, a non-profit established to support Michigan’s marriage equality case, DeBoer v. Snyder. She assisted the lead attorneys in their successful challenge to Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage in federal court, culminating in a victory at the U.S. Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges.
The longtime advocate and activist for the LGBTQ community said she brings a wealth of fundraising and organizational experience to the non-profit organization.
“It’s an exciting opportunity. I had worked with Fair Michigan as a volunteer since its inception. I know the mechanics of the operation,” Maguire said.
The operation Fair Michigan is best known for is the Fair Michigan Justice Project, a collaboration with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office which began in July 2016. The project focuses on homicides and other capital offenses committed against members of the LGBTQ community.
“We identified a problem where LGBTQ crime victims were not getting the attention they deserved from local law enforcement. This has allowed us to get justice for people who are otherwise forgotten or ignored by the system,” Maguire said. “These are some of the worst of the worst crimes against anyone. This is our signature program that we can point to and say we’re really making a difference. It’s something we are the most proud of.”
The success of the project is indicated by the number of convictions they have secured, 26, in just under three years.
This statistic is significant because in Michigan there are no protections for sexual orientation or gender identity in the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act or even in Michigan’s Ethnic Intimidation Act. While marital rights are secure, the employment, housing and safety needs of the LGBTQ community are not.
To continue operating and to help fund the expansion of the project, Maguire said she hopes to do some “serious fundraising,” beyond a few grants the organization has received. This is one of a few primary objectives Maguire outlined that she would like to accomplish during her tenure.
“We can’t operate if we don’t have money. Michigan ranks near the bottom for LGBTQ protections so there’s a lot of work to do,” she said. “It’s impressive what we’ve done so far, but in order to grow our programs, we need funding.”
For this, Maguire will look to her board for support, which has been criticized by some for not having enough diversity — of the nine board members listed on the organization’s website, all of them are white.
“I have heard this critique and I acknowledge the importance of diversity,” Maguire said. “Our board has discussed the utility of having an advisory board to serve in tandem with our current board and we have agreed to move forward with this plan.”
The purpose of the advisory board, she said, would be to provide advice and opinions on the direction of Fair Michigan and how the organization can best serve and represent the community. Maguire said they are currently identifying potential members to serve on the advisory board.
“That said, I want to highlight the dedication, passion and commitment of the members of the Fair Michigan Foundation,” she said. “My board members give their time, talents, energy and ideas freely — that is to say without receiving any compensation of any kind — simply because they are committed to advancing social justice and equality in our state. I am proud to serve with them and continue to be inspired by their service.”
In an effort to educate business leaders about the importance of inclusion, Maguire said she would like to establish more corporate partnerships.
“I want to work with the business community, help them understand the value of having pro-LGBTQ policies in place, why it’s important to have workplaces that value LGBTQ employees, that promote non-discrimination laws and to talk about the economic benefits of that. When people feel respected you can retain and recruit top talent,” she said.
Maguire also said she wants to have “good working relationships” with other LGBTQ organizations like Equality Michigan and the ACLU of Michigan.
“The community is stronger when we are unified and have one voice, when we’re aligned on issues that are important to all of us. There’s strength in numbers,” Maguire said. “That’s really important to me, to see how we can partner together.”
Fair Michigan already has a partnership with Health Emergency Lifeline Programs at Corktown Health Center — an LGBTQ-specific clinic in Detroit — and they are looking to formalize their partnership with All Well-Being Services in Detroit.
Moving forward, Maguire would like to expand their services to women further, making sure they are addressing the full scope of their mission statement.
“We must make sure we’re promoting gender equality in the state as well,” Maguire said. “Women make up half the population in the state. Fair Michigan seeks to launch a pilot project where we assist victims of domestic and/or intimate partner violence in seeking personal protection orders against their abusers.”
Taking Care of the LGBTQ Community
These efforts involve having relationships on the ground, and Maguire said she takes pride in that. And while Fair Michigan doesn’t have a physical meeting space yet, this hasn’t stopped them from connecting with members of the community.
“Julisa [Abad] is of the community and is in the community every day. In terms of reaching the community, you have to go where they are,” Maguire said. “She understands the area, she understands the needs of certainly the trans community, but really sort of the LGBTQ Detroit area at large.”
Abad, Fair Michigan’s director of transgender outreach and advocacy, works in collaboration with the organization’s special prosecutor Jaimie Powell Horowitz, who has been assigned with assistance from special investigator Vicki Yost to litigate Fair Michigan’s cases. Abad helps ensure that transgender persons are supported throughout the process of seeking justice.
In addition, Abad and Powell Horowitz host community forums and cultural competency trainings to help facilitate better relationships between crime victims and witnesses who are LGBTQ and law enforcement officers. Trainings can include information on using proper pronouns, for example.
“It makes such a difference and I think if we can go forward and bring these trainings to more parts of the state, particularly up north, that would be great,” said Maguire, adding that talks are underway with Powell Horowitz to expand the project into another county this year.
“One of the bigger challenges for transgender individuals in their daily lives involves not having their legal names match their chosen name and gender identity,” Maguire said.
“Taking inspiration from some of the other area LGBTQ organizations, Fair Michigan will launch a project to identify and assist members of the trans community who seek to change their legal names. Julisa will lead this program.”
Prosecutor Kym Worthy in association with Fair Michigan has already implemented the Transgender Interaction Policy in November 2016. This policy requires employees in the Wayne County prosecutor’s office to treat transgender, intersex and gender non-conforming individuals in a manner appropriate to the individual’s gender identity, which may be different from the sex the individual was assigned at birth or listed on official identification documents.
On a Personal Note
When asked how her relationship with Nessel impacts the work Fair Michigan does, Maguire said it helps that Nessel is the state’s top law enforcement official and that she is openly lesbian.
“I think it shows visibility, which is important for our community,” Maguire said. “And I think in terms of getting law enforcement buy-in for the kinds of trainings and projects that Fair Michigan does, I think that gives it an added impact to have your state attorney general be a member of the community.”
Maguire added that, “Dana and I have always had an incredible partnership, beyond that of just being married. We support each other in our professional ambitions and aspirations. For as long as we’ve known each other, we have worked together on issues that matter the most to us. Fair Michigan is an outgrowth of this partnership.”
Maguire lives with Nessel in southeast Michigan with their twin sons, Alex and Zach. In her free time, Maguire loves to read, travel, cook and spend time with her friends in the Plymouth Democratic Club, an organization she co-founded in 2009.
For more information about Fair Michigan, visit fairmichigan.org or visit the organization on Facebook @fairmichigan2016 or follow them on Twitter @FairMichigan.