Lobby Day 2018 to Bring Community Members, Politicians Face-to-Face

Drew Howard
By | 2018-04-25T15:24:18+00:00 April 25th, 2018|Michigan, News|

Equality Michigan promotes anti-violence and advocacy for the LGBTQ community and it’s continuing its fight for pro-LGBTQ policies and politicians at its next “Lobby Day” on Tuesday, May 15. That day the public will have an opportunity to sit down and talk with elected officials about today’s most pressing issues.
Erin Knott, political director for Equality Michigan, says this next installment will piggyback off the efforts of EQMI’s previous Lobby Day in September 2017, where organizers focused their discussions around amending the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.
“Over 40 municipalities have passed non-discrimination ordinances that protect the LGBT community,” Knott said. “And while we celebrate over 40 municipalities that have passed pro-equality ordinances it’s a patchwork system, and we need full inclusiveness … and that means amending Elliot-Larsen.”
LGBTQ+ individuals are not accounted for in the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, meaning they can be legally discriminated against in housing, employment and public accommodations. The Michigan Civil Rights Commission has twice tabled a vote to include such people, once on Sept. 18 and again in November.
EQMI will also facilitate discussions with lawmakers around efforts to pass House Bill 5550, which would prohibit licensed professionals from conducting conversion therapy on minors. Conversion therapy is the pseudoscientific practice of trying to change an individual’s sexual orientation using psychological or spiritual interventions, and is opposed by several psychological experts.
State Rep. Adam Zemke (D-Southfield) reintroduced House Bill 5550 for the third time on Feb. 8. Michigan would become the 11th state to outlaw such practices if the bill passes.
House Bill 5550’s reintroduction coincided with the recent controversy surrounding Metro City Church’s alleged conversion therapy workshop, which the church’s leaders call an “Unashamed Identity Workshop.” Zemke denounced the actions of the church in a previous interview with BTL, calling the classes “wildly inappropriate” and “misrepresentative of our values” as a state.
Lobby Day 2018 kicks off at 8:30 a.m. at the Michigan Municipal League on Capitol Avenue, where organizers will take a moment to introduce themselves and welcome attendees. Organizers will also debrief attendees on specific talking points regarding key pieces of legislation, Knott said, in an effort to better prepare individuals to hold a conversation with elected officials.
“We like to make sure folks have some knowledge on pro-equality pieces of legislation,” Knott told BTL. “We develop talking points, do some role playing and answer questions so participants feel more comfortable.”
Participants will then be sent on their way to the capitol to meet representatives for face-to-face discussions. Those interested in lobbying aren’t required to show up at 8:30 a.m., Knott said, as EQMI will make accommodations for late arrivals.
You don’t have to be a veteran activist to make an impact on Lobby Day, Knott added, as speaking from personal experience can be just as effective as memorizing talking points.
“At our September Lobby Day we had a couple folks who lost their job or housing because they were members of the LGBTQ+ community who weren’t protected under Elliot-Larsen,” Knott said. “Stories of hardship in finding a new job of housing were really impactful when they were shared from the person who went through the terrible experience.”
Knott repeatedly emphasized that Lobby Day is just one piece of a much larger movement to elect pro-LGBTQ candidates in the upcoming election.
“This is one of many activities through the months leading to the fall election cycle — it’s going to be a steady drum beat,” Knott said. “The narrative here is that when you go to the polls in November, be a pro-equality voter.”
Knott confirmed that representatives Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo) and Adam Zemke (D-Southfield), who have worked on legislation concerning Elliott-Larsen and conversion therapy respectively, will both be attending Lobby Day. Organizers will have a better idea of who’s attending as the day approaches.
Those interested in participating in Lobby Day are asked to RSVP ahead of time by emailing Erin Knott at eknott@equalitymichigan.com. For more information on upcoming EQMI events, as well how to support its initiatives, please visit equalitymi.org.

About the Author:

Drew Howard
Drew Howard graduated from Grand Valley State University in 2017 with a B.S. in multimedia journalism. His work has been featured in Gazette Media, Forbes, LearnVest and NPR station WDET 101.9.