January Michigan News

Jason A. Michael
Affirmations helps Blue Cross to offer DP benefits to small business employees

Using their Domestic Partner Registry as a foundation, Affirmations Lesbian & Gay Community Center worked to expand the offering of domestic partner benefits by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to companies with less than 100 employees. The DP benefits will be the same as benefits offered to married heterosexuals.
The new plan is a result of a collaboration of several years' worth of effort between Leslie Thompson, Affirmations' executive director, and Kathy Elston, BCBSM's VP of Michigan marketing and sales. When Thompson joined the center, she found that Affirmations was unable to offer DP benefits to their employees because BCBSM's plan for small business did not include them. The initial problem was that there was no way to track domestic partners, and Affirmations solved this by instituting their domestic partnership registry. However, that was not by far the last hurdle the new plan had to jump. First, BCBSM had to wait for the passage of the small group reform measure before putting the new DP benefits into place.
Now, any small business in Michigan who uses BCBSM as their carrier can offer DP insurance benefits if they choose to, so long as the employee seeking the benefits registers their domestic partnership with Affirmations.

Historic town hall on homophobia takes place

The first ever town hall meeting designed to address homophobia in Detroit went off without a hitch, attracting an overflow crowd of more then 400. The prestigious panel of speakers included Michigan State Senator Hansen Clark; Harold Cureton, assistant chief of the Detroit Police Department; Karen Dumas, executive director of community relations for Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's office; Terry Lynn Howcott from City Council President Maryann Mahaffey's office; Detroit City Councilwoman JoAnn Watson; Rev. Darren McCarroll of Unity Fellowship Church; youth activist Natasha Jackson; Donna Payne of the Human Rights Campaign and Rosalyn Worthy, executive director of Gospel Against AIDS. The event was moderated by WJBK Fox 2 anchor and reporter Charles Pugh, who came out publicly as gay in an exclusive interview with Between The Lines prior to the town hall.
The meeting came to fruition following on-air attacks on radio station WHPR of an op-ed piece written by BTL contributing writer Brent Dorian Carpenter. "Forty-nine years ago a woman got on a bus and she was sick and tired of being sick and tired and she refused to give up her seat on the bus," said Carpenter at the town hall meeting. "History remembers her name as Rosa Parks. History does not remember the name of the man who refused her the seat. This is the civil rights movement of our time. The LGBT community is the Rosa Parks of our time. History will not remember the name of those who seek to oppress us."

Republican office holders claim Granholm's ban on gay discrimination does not apply to their offices

Late last year, Gov. Jennifer Granholm issued an executive order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation for state offices. But just weeks later, the two highest-ranking Republicans in the state, Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land and Attorney General Mike Cox, said they are not bound to abide by the ban. With representatives for both Land and Cox claiming their offices do not discriminate against gays, both also contended that the Michigan Constitution says that Granholm's order does not apply to them.
But Mary Dettloff, Granholm's press secretary, saw it differently.
"We feel very comfortable in our interpretation of our constitution," said Dettloff, who added that other executive orders dealing with matters like budget cuts occurred without any issues. Dettloff maintained that Granholm has the power to supervise the State Department. "She is essentially the CEO of Michigan."
Granholm's executive order banned discrimination based on sexual orientation in state employment, protections not covered under state and federal laws. The order covers 55,000 state workers.

Imaginary event in Traverse City draws real controversy

Under the alleged pretense that he had heard the Traverse City Human Rights Commission was planning a "diversity week" that would include celebrations around sexual orientation, a Traverse City citizen lashed out at gays and lesbians during a presentation to the commission.
"There is a group of citizens in Traverse City who are very concerned about the youth of our city being desensitized to dangerous homosexual behavior," said Bill Weisner, reading from a prepared letter he had written. "We would like equal time to share in any proposed Diversity Week so that we can alert the youth and all citizens of Traverse City of the many dangers of homosexual behavior."
Weisner also read from "After the Ball," an out-of-print political action manual by Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen. Despite the need for such that Weisner's floor show so aptly illustrated, the commission announced they had no plans to put on a diversity week.


• Michigan Equality named Ingham County Commissioner Chris Swope to be the four-year-old statewide political advocacy organization's first executive director.
• Craig Covey, executive director of the Midwest AIDS Prevention Project and a Ferndale City Commissioner since 1999, was voted to a two-year term as Ferndale Mayor Pro-Tem.
• Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays announced the formation of PFLAG Latino Detroit. The group becomes the third PFLAG in the nation specifically geared toward the friends and families of Latino gays.


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