By Roland Leggit
I can hardly believe that it’s already 2012. It seems that just the other day I was standing on the stage at Motor City Pride on a beautiful afternoon in June. While summer may be the season for fun in the sun, winter affords us the opportunity to hunker down and get to work. The beginning of the year is often a great time for planning, and here at Equality Michigan that is exactly what we’re doing. As I write this I’m up to my elbows in annual strategic planning. As many of you know, proper planning requires you to examine what it takes to accomplish specific goals. This year my planning sessions are a little different than in the past. I’ve started my planning process with a bit of nostalgia. After all, it was around this time last year that we were asking ourselves a few very important questions. What does 2011 have in store for our community? How will the new legislature and governor respond to the complex challenges that our state faces?
Many of us were very disappointed by the way in which our governor and legislature decided to answer those questions this past year. However, there were resounding pro-equality advocates here in the state that perhaps we didn’t account enough for: the residents of Michigan!
While we were focused on the happenings in Lansing throughout the year, I also had the privilege of meeting some of the great leaders working all around the state. While Gov. Rick Snyder and conservatives in the legislature were working to eliminate heath care coverage for domestic partners, the residents of Traverse City were rallying to keep the non-discrimination ordinance that the city had passed the year before. While the anti-gay American Family Association was trying to block a robust anti-bullying law, students from across the state were going to Lansing to demand safe schools. The year ended with a roar as the residents of Troy demanded that their mayor respect all residents, not just those that she agrees with.
While 2011 began with a lot of questions about how elected officials would respond to the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, it was the residents of Michigan who answered the call to action. Now I find myself at the very beginning of 2012 both remembering the questions I had last year and reflecting on the answers that the community has given us. It’s clear to me that this next year must be about the residents of Michigan finding the answers to these challenges ourselves.
Rather than hoping for the best from our elected officials, it’s up to us to make our voices heard at the ballot box. Instead of waiting for Washington or Lansing to pass pro-equality legislation, we need to demand that the communities that we call home are welcoming places to live and do business.
The non-discrimination ordinances that have passed across the state are strong evidence that Michigan can be a welcoming community. So it’s with the answers that you and others in the community have given that I find myself on the road again. I’ll be travelling even more this year and I can’t wait so see old friends and some new faces. Organizers in cities like Mt. Pleasant and Holland are working hard to pass their own non-discrimination ordinances and I look forward to joining their efforts. Families from across the state are demanding that the unfair and harmful domestic partner health care ban that Governor Snyder signed be struck down. All of this is just the beginning. I believe that 2012 can be a year of tremendous strides forward here in Michigan. However, it will be the residents of the state, not our legislature, who will be leading the charge.