Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
By Sharon Gittleman
FERNDALE – A handful of protesters braved the frigid temperatures last weekend, eager to speak out against Michigan’s failure to support marriage rights for gays and lesbians.
As they shivered on the median at Nine Mile Rd. and Woodward, holding signs with messages like, “live and let love,” “we all deserve the freedom to marry,” and “love is blind,” drivers honked their horns in support. Many onlookers waved at the protesters or gave them a thumbs-up. The band of activists saluted them back in return.
The encouragement added a bit of cheer – despite the meager turnout for the demonstration. While protest sponsor, Affirmations Lesbian and Gay Community Center contacted people on the organization’s email list, mentioned the event on its website and sent out press releases to publicize the gathering, only ten men and women showed up for the two-hour rally.
“It does disappoint me,” said demonstrator Bradley Gartin. “I think more people should be involved.
Tom Hitchman feared onlookers would dismiss the group’s message because of the slim turnout.
“Without good numbers we won’t have an effect,” he said.
Affirmations’ Helpline and Resource Coordinator Katie Livingston said she thought it was important for gays and lesbians to come to demonstrations so they could act as a “virtual presence” for their community.
She understood the temptations that kept some away.
“LGBT people are living their lives,” she said. “We’re working people. We have families.”
If gays and lesbians don’t show up for protests why should anyone care about their concerns?
“Exactly,” she said.
The individuals who came to the rally were passionate about pursuing the freedom to marry.
“I believe love should be legalized for all people,” said Gartin. “I want marriage, children, the whole works.”
Gays and lesbians face a host of challenges, from the right to visit their loved one during a hospital stay to serving openly in the military, he said.
“I work in a very gay-friendly job, but if I didn’t I could get fired,” he said. “I don’t think a lot of people realize what gay men and women can’t do.”
Gartin believes some think permitting gay marriage would invalidate their own legal relationships.
“I can understand if the Catholic Church doesn’t want to marry me,” he said. “I don’t understand why I can’t get married by the Justice of the Peace.”
The demonstration was Gartin’s first protest.
“I don’t expect it to happen in my lifetime, but I hope my nieces and nephews see that their Uncle Brad can get married.”
Hitchman feels strongly about marriage equality.
He and his partner have been a couple for the past 17 years.
The ability to wed alters the way men and women are treated by their communities, he said.
“For us, it wouldn’t be different but it would change the way others view us and respect us as equals,” said Hitchman.
Andrei Way said marriage is important because it reveals your commitment to one person to friends, family and neighbors.
“I’d like to settle down and have kids, to raise a family and have someone to talk to at night,” he said.
Many of the individuals accusing the LGBT community of promiscuity are also fighting to deny gays and lesbians the right to wed.
“They are contradictory,” he said. “They want us to disappear and go to our own island.”
Young people like him have mixed views about the right to wed, said Way.
“Some care, some don’t,” he said. “Some don’t want to think about getting married.”
Livingston said she doesn’t want to marry, but doesn’t like seeing gays and lesbians banned from saying their vows.
“LGBT people have been partnering forever,” she said. “I believe anyone who wants to get married should be able to.”
Bashar Makhay, Affirmations’ civic engagement coordinator, helped organize the rally as part of the community center’s “Freedom to Marry Week” program.
Before the event, Makhay said he’d consider the protest a success if gay people proved willing to fight for their rights.
He believes gay marriage is on the horizon.
“If you change one person around,” he said, “we think it will make a difference. It will just take time to get people to open their minds.”