By Sean Kosofsky
On February 3, Gary Glenn of the American Family Association of Michigan sank to a new low. He issued a press release with the nastiest and most malicious rhetoric yet, demanding the State of Michigan take back funding it gave to Triangle Foundation to serve victims of anti-GLBT hate crimes. Since Triangle is the only agency in Michigan offering comprehensive services for GLBT hate crime victims, this could seriously jeopardize vital programs for our community.
Triangle has been serving hate crime victims for 15 years. A few months ago, the Michigan Crime Victims Service Commission awarded a grant to Triangle to provide essential victim services to “underserved” victims of crime. The Victims of Crimes Act (VOCA) requires perpetrators of federal crimes to pay fees when they are convicted. Those funds are then distributed to agencies serving crime victims. In other words, this is not taxpayer money – it is from offenders themselves.
GLBT people sometimes face discrimination from law enforcement and traditional service providers, resulting in re-victimization. Gary Glenn claims that anti-GLBT harassment and police abuse don’t count as crime, even when paramedics, police or probation officers break the law. VOCA funds are essential for the gay community because in many situations Triangle is the only vehicle for mediation, advocacy or as a watchdog.
Glenn has convinced a few legislators to hold hearings on the issue and they may introduce an amendment to the Michigan budget to block groups like Triangle from accessing VOCA funds to serve GLBT clients. This is highly problematic for several reasons.
First, the state legislature has more important things to do than micro manage who should get every small grant in our state. By only focusing on Triangle Foundation they are discriminating against the gay community and actually sending a chilling message to GLBT Michigan residents: “When gays are attacked, we don’t care.”
Second, they are opening up a can of worms that could backfire. If the state were to shine a light on every single expenditure of money, it may find that the whole system is working in a way that makes extremists mad. Then what? Will the legislature take money away from every agency that helps gay people at all? Why stop there? Why not go after every group Gary Glenn doesn’t like? This story would not have a pretty end.
It is one thing to say you oppose homosexuality or even marriage equality for gays. But to wage a campaign to deny crime victims the services they need just because they are gay is a hate crime. It could prove to be political suicide.
Funds for victim services are very popular and we must remind our state lawmakers that when our community falls victim to crime, we need culturally competent and professional advocacy. We need Triangle Foundation.
Gary Glenn has come full circle with this latest attack. He attacks our community with a rabid zeal that raises more questions about his values than it does his arguments. With such hateful campaigns we see a climate where anti-GLBT discrimination and violence are validated and endorsed. When the climate erupts and gays are attacked, there is Gary again, saying that by merely coming out of the closet we deserve such violence, and that there should be no resources for us when we are brutally attacked. And Gary claims to be a Christian.
Just over a month ago, Salvagio Vonatti, a 31 year-old gay man, was shot in the head outside of a gay bar in Detroit. The perpetrator did not rob him – he just walked over to him, called him a faggot and shot him. He is currently in a coma and his family is praying for his full and quick recovery and they are praying for justice for Sal. The last thing on their mind is whether the organization helping their loved one is gay.
With his newest attack, Gary Glenn can no longer run and hide. His motives are transparent. He wishes harm to GLBT people.