As state capitols across the country, as well as the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., prepare for possible danger in the coming week, so, too, are LGBTQ community centers on the west side of the state preparing for possible trouble. The reason: the OutCenter of Southwest Michigan and other LGBTQ community centers recently received a slew of anti-LGBTQ hate email.
“We now know he sent similar messages to three other LGBTQ centers on this side of the state,” said Mary Jo Schnell, OutCenter’s executive director. “Those centers are now making decisions about what they’re going to do. The email cited the attempted coup at the Capitol in terms of stuff that’s going to happen to LGBT people.”
It took little investigation to determine the sender’s name, though Schnell is not revealing it at this time.
“It was just so disturbing and we did our own research because he, I don’t believe, really knew how to mask his stuff. So we have a pretty good idea that this is the real deal and we’re not sure what potential he has to follow through. But, honestly, if this had been pre-coup attempt, I don’t know if we would have responded the way that we did. But the fact that it was post-coup attempt and he cited it, it was like, ‘Oh, holy God.’”
Based on her research, Schnell said she has a pretty good description of the man who sent the message.
“This is a very hateful man who has been so hateful for so long he’s irrational,” she said. “He’s an older, white, straight, cisgender man who probably started getting this way when Obama was elected, to be honest,” Schnell said. “And he has, in a sense, just festererd in his own poison. That’s who I’m thinking; very much white supremacist.”
After receiving the email, Scnhell contacted the center’s attorney as well as the FBI, the Benton Harbor Department of Public Safety and the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department.
“We contacted the FBI as online threats are a federal crime,” said Schnell. “Our team provided them with all the information needed to investigate via their reporting tool set up to receive tips following the attempted coup at the US Capitol.”
The hope is that eventually the culprit will be “brought up on charges,” Schnell said.
“Hopefully, it reaches the bar of federal hate crimes. We are in possession of the four similar but different messages he sent to the centers. Then, of course, this leads to the need to put in place hate crimes law in Michigan that even addresses hate speech and, obviously, amending the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act without including religious exemptions.”