Granholm to LGBT community: keep fighting for equality

By |2005-09-22T09:00:00-04:00September 22nd, 2005|News|

DEARBORN – The Eleventh Annual Triangle Foundation Dinner Event boasted a long list of big names in Michigan politics in attendance including senators, representatives, school board members and members of the Detroit City Council. Topping the list for the second year in a row was Governor Jennifer Granholm who spoke briefly to the 435 member crowd before dinner.
“This is such a great event and a great community,” she said. “I am proud as Governor to call this community an ally and a friend and to be supportive of this community as a Governor and as a friend.”
Granholm said proponents of equality have a lot of work left to do. “We need a lot of catalytic action in the state of Michigan,” she said, referring to the Catalyst Awards Triangle gives to community activists and organizations each year, “particularly in the area of equality.”
Referring to the ongoing hearings for Supreme Court Chief Justice nominee John Roberts, Granholm spoke of the issue of privacy, stating that the government should not be involved in one’s most private of decisions. Roberts’ views on a right to privacy have been under intense scrutiny by progressives.
“Government should not be in the doctor’s office, in the bedroom or listening at the confessional,” Granholm said.
Granholm commended those in attendance for their work toward equality in the face of stubborn opposition. “You’re doing the right thing by raising your voices,” she said, acknowledging it’s a tough time in Lansing to be supportive of equality.
Granholm also addressed the current lawsuit over Proposal 2 and its impact on domestic partner benefits. She reminded the crowd that she had sought her own council because she did not agree with Attorney General Mike Cox’s interpretation that the law prevented DP benefits. “The language of Proposal 2 should be interpreted as proponents said,” she said. “We are asking the courts to take them at their word.”
Highlighting her track record in the lesbian and gay community, she spoke of her recent appointment as John Burchett, an openly gay man who previously ran her Washington D.C. office, as her new Chief Operating Officer. “I’m thrilled he’s coming home to Michigan,” she said.
In closing, Granholm said, “I ask that you continue to be strong, be vocal and continue to try to breathe life in to the four words that are inscribed over the entrance to the Supreme Court: Equal Justice Under Law.”
The dinner is Triangle Foundation’s largest fundraising event. Though complete numbers were not available at press time, Kevin McAlpine, Triangle’s director of development, estimated the event raised over $60,000 after expenses. Funds are raised through ticket sales, corporate sponsorships and the silent auction.
“This is the largest crowd we’ve ever had for our annual dinner,” McAlpine said.
Jeffrey Montgomery, executive director at Triangle, was pleased with the event. “It was a splendid evening and I’m pretty confidant that people were inspired by the evening because I know that we at Triangle were certainly inspired by the enthusiasm and support of the crowd,” he said.
“We endeavor to highlight extraordinary activists in the community but also I think our event is known for providing speakers that are not only relevant and articulate but really have an important message and we certainly met that bill last night with Dr. Mary Berry who was terrific.”
The community activists highlighted at the event with a Catalyst Award were Michelle Brown, who is a board member of Affirmations Lesbian and Gay Community Center and Detroit Black Gay Pride as well as a member of the HRC Michigan steering committee and former co-chair of the Coalition for a Fair Michigan; PFLAG Detroit, The Kalamazoo Gay and Lesbian Resource Center, and Susan Horowitz, co-publisher of Between The Lines and former Operations Manager for the Coalition for a Fair Michigan.
Jon Hoadley received the Henry D. Messer Youth Activist Award, which was presented by Sean Kosofsky, director of policy at Triangle. Kosofsky called Hoadley “a true rising star.” Hoadley said of the award, “I consider this to be an investment in work to be done in the future.”
Jim Lessenberry, who is stepping down as Triangle’s Board Chair and relocating to California, has been involved with Triangle Foundation since 1995. He said he has watched the organization grow stronger and more solvent. “I am confidant that Triangle will be here to serve you and the next generation for the next 50 years at least,” he said.
Lessenberry introduced Chair-elect Jackie Anderson, a current member of Triangle’s board of trustees, and said he had faith that she would continue to keep the organization strong.
Montgomery echoed that sentiment about Anderson, who hails from Hope, Michigan. “It’s a sign of serious success for the future that we will be led by a woman from Hope,” he said.
Closing the evening was keynote speaker Dr. Mary Frances Berry who was a commissioner on the U.S. Civil Rights Commission during the Reagan and the first Bush administration and became Chairperson of the Civil Rights Commission during the Clinton administration.
“The reason why I’m here is because I do believe that sexual freedom is a fundamental human right,” she said.
Berry’s remarks centered around the idea of “how to fix things.” Berry shared her wisdom about how to advance the cause of equality. One of these things, she said, is “to understand the issues and understand when we’re being fooled.”
“Realize there are a lot of incompetent people in government,” she continued.
“Change takes place in spurts,” she said, offering that movement forward is often followed by backlash. She said that though we may move three steps forward and two steps back, “You never got all the way back.”
If you have a good idea, she said, the best time to do something is when nobody else is doing it. “If Rosa Parks had taken a poll before she got on the bus she’d still be standing up,” Berry said. “Show some leadership.”
Berry also urged those in attendance to be independent in their political thinking. She said that it is not productive to be blindly faithful to one party or another.
Finally, she urged everyone to do one thing every day in the service of social justice.
“Each generation needs to make its own dent in the wall of injustice,” she said. “I believe that change is incremental and I’m happy with that so long as it’s change.”

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