By BTL Staff
DETROIT – This month, Dignity Detroit, a predominately Roman Catholic, faith-based, diverse community of over 130 LGBT and straight believers, remembers its past as it gathers to celebrate its 30th anniversary in two special ways.
“We plan to party and pray together,” said Frank D’Amore, president of Dignity Detroit.
On Saturday, May 15 Dignity Detroit will hold its annual Dinner Dance at Dearborn’s Park Place.
“We are honored to have Brian McNaught, the founder of Dignity Detroit, scheduled as our dinner speaker,” said D’Amore. “Although Brian’s career and commitments have taken him away from us and Detroit, he’s never been far from our thoughts and his influence remains.”
McNaught founded the Dignity Detroit chapter 30 years ago in 1974 while working as a columnist for The Michigan Catholic. He was fired after an article about his involvement in Dignity Detroit appeared in The Detroit News.
“I started the Detroit chapter of Dignity with five other gay men in 1974 because we all felt that being open about our homosexuality was essential for our spiritual growth,” said McNaught. “It was intolerable to participate in religious rituals that proclaimed, ‘the truth will set you free,’ and be assumed to be heterosexual.”
Being fired for being gay had a significant impact on his life and outlook. “Though it was a very difficult time for me, and for everyone else concerned, I have no regrets about coming out or being fired,” he said. “It was the best job I ever lost but it started me on my long journey of public education and advocacy on behalf of gay people.”
Today McNaught is considered one of the country’s leading corporate diversity experts dealing with gay issues in the workplace. Although he marvels at the progress he’s seen in 30 years at the corporate level, the federal and state governments need to follow suit.
“Michigan needs to pass a state law that bans discrimination based upon sexual orientation,” said McNaught. “It’s wonderful to have corporations such as the Big Three automobile companies write such protections into their policies but those protections rely upon the company’s good will, not the power of civil law. Gay people can be fired without legal recourse unless there are statewide protections. The fear of such discrimination, whether or not it actually happens routinely, takes a significant toll on the employees’ ability to produce, their loyalty to the company, the company’s ability to attract and retain the best talent, and thus, the company’s and the state’s financial viability.”
McNaught said he was looking forward to coming back to Detroit. “I’m delighted to have been asked and I’m really looking forward to the event,” he said. “I have many happy memories of my time with Dignity Detroit.”
The 30th anniversary celebration continues after the Dinner Dance. “Our community will then celebrate its spiritual side the following evening at a 6 p.m. anniversary Mass at Marygrove College’s Sacred Heart Chapel,” said D’Amore.
He continued, “Although the dinner dance is sold out, there should be room for anyone who wants to share in our celebration at Sunday’s liturgy. You don’t have to be a member of Dignity Detroit to attend. Everyone is welcome in our community. We at Dignity Detroit are dedicated to creating and maintaining a comfortable, affirming space in which to worship.”
For 30 years, Dignity Detroit has prided itself in a vibrant, inclusive weekly service every Sunday at 6 p.m. In addition to Sunday mass, Dignity Detroit sponsors retreats, a monthly women’s group and seasonal prayer services. Its members support organizations and activities that directly impact the LGBT community, like PFLAG and AIDS Walk Detroit, as well as outreach programs that benefit the Detroit area like the Capuchin Soup Kitchen and numerous charitable organizations and causes.