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 [...]
Last year Michigan’s LGBT community passed several significant milestones. As we look back and remember, these nine achievements stand out as the primary reminders of the seventh year of the new millennium.
Ruth Ellis Center recognized nationally
A few months after BTL’s April story about the Ruth Ellis Center, a project for homeless LGBT youth, the New York Times showcased REC in an extensive feature about the problems associated with LGBT youth homelessness.
“There are only four youth social centers in the country specifically working with LGBT kids,” said Grace McClelland, REC’s executive director.
“Ruth Ellis is a standout in the country for their focus,” said Lynn Nee, executive director of Michigan Network for Youth and Families.
Affirmations opens new center
In May, Affirmations Community Center moved into their spectacular new facility in downtown Ferndale. The “all green” building was carefully designed to meet the needs of a community that values, openness, safety, beauty and function.
“I can remember the first meetings of the HOPE fund, where we were concerned that some people may be uncomfortable. How far we have come! Here we are in front of this glass wall, proud of our community and our center,” said Allan Gilmour while standing in front of huge glass windows facing Nine Mile Rd. at the Grand Opening reception on May 20. Gilmour and Eric Jirgens, for whom the center in named, donated $1 million, or about 18 percent of the total $5.7 million raised for the total project, all from private donations.
House passes anti-bullying bill
The Michigan House of Representatives voted 59-50 on March 28 to pass two bills collectively known as Matt’s Safe Schools, and sent it on to the Senate.
State Rep. Pam Byrnes (D-Brighton) who was sponsor of the bill, said it passed because of a lobby day when over one hundred students, parents and advocates descended upon the Capitol. “We had the supporters there. That presence helped, we were losing people not gaining people.”
But that was as far as the bill went. State Sen. Wayne Kuipers (R-Holland), chair of the Senate Education Committee, has so far refused to bring the bill up for a hearing.
Julie Nemeck successfully takes on SAU
In March, Julie Nemeck, 55, settled a lawsuit she brought against her former employer, the conservative Christian university Spring Arbor University. SAU’s administration had fired Nemeck after she announced her transformation from the Rev. Dr. John Nemecek to Julie Marie Nemecek. The university claimed her gender identity transformation was not Christian.
Still, Nemeck would have liked to stay teaching at SAU.
“Believe it or not I’d like to keep working there,” she said. “I enjoy what I’m doing and I’m good at it. I really like the Christian environment. I’d like to help them understand gender identity disorder more. If I ride out into the sunset, there’s no one left to talk to them.”
Fabulous float rocks Berrien County
Despite threats of attack and violence, the Blossom Day Parade in St. Joseph May 5 went off without a hitch, and the for the first time an openly LGBT group participated with a fabulous float of their own.
“The thing that most surprised me was the support we saw prior to the parade from the other parade participants,” said Dawn Outwin, an OAC steering committee member and the driver of the tractor that pulled the float. “The [local high school beauty] queens and their courts came up and wanted to have their pictures taken in front of the float..It was amazing,” she said.
OutNAbout launches in Flint
An extensive Out ‘N About series of cultural events, sponsored by the Greater Flint Arts Council, is transforming LGBT visibility in the town where General Motors was founded. In October, the project hosted historian Tim Retzloff.
“They called me and asked if I would set up this exhibit at the Flint Library. I was glad to… my first job was at the Flint Library. I was there for 10 years…at a time in my life when I was coming out. I was having a very difficult time coming out in Flint, and to have this exhibit displayed in this place from my past is very gratifying,” said Retzloff.
First gay mayor in Ferndale
In November, Craig Covey was elected as the first openly-gay mayor in Michigan.
“The discussion of whether or not the gay community is welcome or legitimate or a part of Ferndale has been settled once and for all. Because so many live here and are out – and pride flags are all over – it’s a non-issue,” said Covey.
Peninsula Group’s historic survey
The most comprehensive survey ever of Michigan’s LGBT community was released at a leadership summit in May by the Peninsula Group, an ad hoc committee of volunteers who devoted thousands of hours of technical and professional research expertise. The most significant outcome of the summit was an agreement to form an association of Michigan LGBT and Ally organizations.
“Bringing people together for a common purpose…is an amazing achievement,” said Leslie Thompson, executive director of Affirmations Community Center.
Michigan gets graded on AIDS response
Nn Dec. 1, World AIDS Day, the Michigan AIDS Fund issued its first “report card.” The over all grades for the state are average (B minus in care and treatment, B minus in funding, C in HIV prevention and a C in public policy.) The report details show the state has failed in key prevention areas such as men who have sex with men, African Americans and youth ages 13-24, as well as failed to make HIV testing routine in medical settings.
“The crisis expands, requiring still greater effort to address the shortcomings identified here,” reads the MAF executive summary.