Advocacy groups delighted by Boy Scouts’ transgender stance

By ISAAC CONSTANS
Capital News Service

LANSING — Michigan LGBT lobbyists are hailing the Boy Scouts of America’s decision to admit transgender boys as a momentous step in the struggle for recognition of equal rights.

“Boy Scouts of America’s decision to accept transgender boys is an extraordinary leap in the right direction for equality in our country,” said Angeles Valenciano, chief executive officer for the National Diversity Council, which has a chapter in Michigan. “We believe it is very commendable that they have chosen to create an inclusive environment for children from all backgrounds.”

On Jan. 30, the Boy Scouts decided that registering individuals based on the gender listed on their birth certificate was an antiquated practice. Instead, the new procedure will allow members to enroll based on the gender listed on their application.

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Legislator wants law to solve school bathroom issue

By JASON KRAFT

Capital News Service

LANSING – A state lawmaker wants transgendered students in Michigan to be required to use school bathrooms or locker rooms of the gender they were assigned at birth.

Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, announced that he will introduce the bill in response to guidelines recently released for schools by the Michigan Department of Education.

The guidelines are optional and say students should be allowed to use the restroom that matches their current gender identity.

“All-gender or single- user restrooms (staff bathroom or nurse’s office) should be made available to students who request them, but not presented as the only option. Any student who has a need or desire for increased privacy, regardless of underlying reasons, has the right to access a single-user restroom,” reads the document.
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Schools see need to address LGBT issues

By MICHAEL KRANSZ
Capital News Service

LANSING — Over the past several years, Kim Phillips-Knope’s role in assisting Michigan high school staff address lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues has changed.

Phillips-Knope, who has worked with educators and administrators through a program called “A Silent Crisis” for the past decade, said the program began with informing them about the state’s LGBT population and the risk of self-harm and then moved onto ensuring that those students are safe and thrive in public high schools.

Now educators understand that the LGBT population exists and is at risk, but “What do we need to do to make sure they’re safe in our schools?” said Phillips-Knope, a Michigan Department of Education special projects consultant.
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Michigan ‘religious freedom’ act concerns business leaders

By COLLIN KRIZMANICH

Capital News Service

LANSING — Business leaders in Michigan are wary of proposed legislation that could lead to discrimination against those in the LGBT community.

The passage of a similar Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana resulted in a backlash not only from gay and lesbian activist groups, but also business and even some religious leaders.

“Economically, it would not be good for Michigan,” said Jennifer Kluge, CEO of the Michigan Business and Professional Association. “It won’t be good for anybody if the economy goes in a negative direction after all the work our legislature and governor have done to move it forward.”
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Same-sex couples still waiting for adoption rights

By BROOKE KANSIER
Capital News Service

LANSING — Same-sex couples in Michigan can serve as foster parents, but if they wish to adopt a child together, current state laws say they can’t.

This is because, by law, Michigan couples need to be married in order to adopt a child. And same-sex marriage in Michigan is still prohibited after a U.S. Appeals Court upheld the state’s ban, although 300 couples who were married during a brief legal window are now recognized by the state.

Kathleen Nelson, executive director of the Michigan adoption agency Hands Across the Water, said a person’s LGBT status does not make a difference when it comes to one’s adequacy as a parent.
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Removing barriers for gays could boost state economy

By CELESTE BOTT

Capital News Service

LANSING – Discrimination against gays and lesbians hurts Michigan’s economy, according to a new report by the Department of Civil Rights.

Emily Dievendorf, director of policy for Equality Michigan, said that reducing widespread discrimination will improve the economy because more people are likely to live and work in a state that promotes tolerance.

“Bright, skilled workers no longer flock to a location just because a business puts down roots,” Dievendorf said. “The best and the brightest are most attracted to communities that are also safe and open to all families.
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