Michigan braces for amendment fight
The anti-gay group Citizens for the Protection of Marriage turned in over 482,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office on July 5 to get the issue of amending the state’s constitution to ban marriage rights, civil unions, and domestic partnership benefits for same-sex couples in Michigan on the November ballot. The number of valid signatures needed is 317,757. It will take several weeks for the signatures to be processed and verified.
“We are neither surprised nor discouraged by the signatures filed today by our opponents,” said Wendy Howell, campaign manager for the Coalition for a Fair Michigan. “We know that many of these signatures were gathered under the guise of ‘protecting marriage’ and that many of the good people who signed these petitions will vote no on Nov. 2 once it becomes clear to them that this goes far beyond simply strengthening the definition of marriage already on the books, and would actually ban any legal recognition of civil unions or domestic partnership rights for unmarried couples. We are prepared to mount and run a winning statewide campaign, and are confident that a majority of Michiganders will choose to vote against this divisive and extreme amendment.”
Michigan activists protest Bush’s global AIDS policies
A small but impassioned group of activists paid a visit to the Bush/Cheney campaign office in Southfield on June 24 to take part in the World Day of Protest to reject the President’s global AIDS policies.
At issue was Bush’s pledge of $15 billion to fight AIDS worldwide. According to the activists, less than $400 million has actually been issued and countries in need of funding are offered it with strings attached. Some of the conditions the activists cited were prohibitions against the purchase of low-cost generic medicines and funds used for abstinence-only prevention programs.
The activists gathered in the parking lot and along Civic Center Drive, where they held signs with AIDS related messages. Neil Sardana, a student at Michigan State University and an active member of Amnesty International and United States Against Sweatshops, held a sign that read, “HIV was the fifth leading cause of death for American youth.”
“We’re here to tell the candidates for the election that AIDS is an issue in this election,” he said. “Bush needs to hold to his promises.”
MSU announces new scholarship for LGBT students of color
MSU announces that a new scholarship will be awarded to students who are active in addressing issues for students of color who are lesbian, bisexual, gay, and/or transgender beginning in spring 2005. MSU undergraduate LaJoya Johnson was motivated to create the scholarship following the 2003 murder of Sakia Gunn, a 15 year old African-American lesbian in Newark, New Jersey. The murder had a profound impact on Johnson’s commitment to being an activist at MSU.
“It’s my hope that the scholarship will create more opportunities for students who are committed to activism to stay in school,” said Johnson, a co-director of MSU’s Alliance of LBGT Students.
Recipients will be selected based on their contributions to LGBT and people of color communities, academic and career goals, and financial need. It is one of the few university scholarships in the country that addresses the intersections of race/ethnicity and sexual orientation/gender identity. The scholarship will be administered by the Office of LBGT Concerns and Office of Financial Aid.
University leaders are enthusiastic about the new scholarship. “This scholarship makes a very important statement about the supportiveness of Michigan State to student academic success,” said Rodney Patterson, director of MSU’s Office of Racial and Ethnic Student Affairs.
Friends North Bike tour attacked by anti-gay extremists
The annual Friends North bike tour was apparently the target of a right-wing extremist attack near Thompsonville in northern Michigan the night of July 24. Around 70 people, including two children, were camped out on a piece of remote, privately-owned land when a portable toilet rented for the event burst into flames.
“Thirty foot flames shot out, it was like a cross burning,” said Sheryl Layton, who co-owns the property with her partner Hilda Charles.
Campers were able to put out the blaze using buckets and a five gallon Igloo container that had contained lemonade. Hours later, campers found around 20 hand written messages strewn around the tent which served as the camp’s gathering place.
The messages, written in marker on lined notebook paper, contained anti-gay messages such as, “Watch your backs fags, cause we are going to kill you all.”
Some of the pages contained swastikas and were signed, “KKK.” One flier expressed support for George W. Bush’s presidential bid. No one was injured in the fire, which is believed to have been set using the camp’s rainbow flags and an accelerant.
• The annual Lansing Area AIDS Network Life Ride raised $13,000 this year, as 24 riders may their way from the state’s capital to Saugatuck over two days.
• The ninth annual Hotter Than July – Detroit Black Gay Pride took place July 29 – Aug. 1. Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick put in an appearance at Saturday’s picnic, marking the first time a sitting mayor had attended an HTJ event.