Get your voice to Lansing

By |2005-06-23T09:00:00-04:00June 23rd, 2005|Uncategorized|

As we head into the last major Pride event of the month, it’s important to take a moment and look at where we’ve been and where we’re headed. After all, this weekend’s Pride festivities aren’t held in Lansing by accident.
In Michigan it is still legal to fire someone because they’re lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Some workers are lucky enough to be employed by companies that have their own written non-discrimination policies. Others are protected to an extent by their unions. But most folks don’t fall into these categories. Whether you bus dishes at a hole-in-the-wall diner or teach high school science, you could lose your job for being gay.
It’s also time that the hate crimes law was amended to reflect that crime against LGBT people, specifically because they are LGBT, does happen. It is happening. To not acknowledge it in law is to turn a blind eye to that violence.
State Rep. Chris Kolb has introduced measures that would address these inequities by amending Michigan’s civil rights act and hate crimes law to include sexual orientation and gender identity. This isn’t the first time such measures have been introduced, but the LGBT and allied community can’t afford to give up on such basic measures of protection for ourselves and our friends and families.
Those who oppose the hate crime and civil rights measures usually do so on grounds that being gay or being trans is a choice and thus doesn’t warrant protection. Others argue that the private sector is doing a fine enough job and non-discrimination measures should be left up to folks at big corporations and out of the hands of the legislature.
We hear the term “special rights” bandied about quite a bit. It’s a term the anti-gay folks have gotten a lot of milage out of. Why should LGBT people get rights based on their chosen “lifestyle” (another buzz word), as if being gay were the same as being, say, a gang member or a vegan? Those are lifestyles. For the majority of LGBT folks, we just want basic protections to live our lives without unwarranted fear of what amounts to state-sanctioned discrimination.
We have a lot of challenges ahead of us to get these measures passed, but it is important that we work hard to see that they do.
Looking at the national level, Scott Bloch, director of the Office of Special Counsel, is still refusing to enforce the non-discrimination measure for federal workers. Though President Clinton signed an executive order protecting LGBT federal workers from discrimination – an order Bush said he backed – Bloch refuses to look into allegations of discrimination against LGBT workers. In fact, he removed references to such protections from the Office of Special Counsel website and then announced that gays were SOL.
Of course, if sexual orientation and gender identity were added to the protections afforded to federal employees, Bloch would have no choice but to enforce it. That is, ultimately, what needs to be done. This is just what Senator Carl Levin suggested be done when he grilled Bloch about his anti-gay stance during a recent Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs subcommittee meeting.
As June Pride winds down, it is the perfect time to pick up a phone, log onto an email account, or put pen to paper and let your legislators on both the state and federal level know that you want these measures to pass. Contact Levin and suggest he sponsor the very measure he suggested to protect federal workers. Contact Jennifer Granholm and tell her how important Kolb’s bills are to you and your family. Contact Kolb and thank him for introducing them. Contact your Michigan Representative and Senator and ask them to get behind these bills.
Being LGBT isn’t a choice, but being politically active is. Whether you make it to Lansing this weekend or not, there’s no excuse for your voice not to be there.

About the Author:

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