Same-sex couples speak up after judicial ruling in March

By Richie Carni and Jalen Dann
Entirely East Lansing staff writers

EAST LANSING–In the wake of the judicial ruling on same-sex marriage on March 22, 2014, and the hold that was placed shortly after, many same-sex couples have found themselves stuck in limbo, with their marriage being considered legal, but being denied access to many marriage benefits.

Chelsea McCarty (left) and Rebecca Lee (right) were married on March 22, 2014. Photo courtesy of Chelsea McCarty.

Chelsea McCarty and Rebecca Lee were one of 43 couples at Harbor Unitarian Universalist Congregation on March 22, 2014. McCarty, a full-time, graduate student at Ferris State University studying criminal justice, said the marriage took an immense weight off her shoulders.

“Being legally married meant a to me,” McCarty said. “To me, it just meant that we are recognized as an equal. That we are not some kind of second class citizen.”

Lee said the marriage has brought on an entirely new perspective on marriage equality in the United States.

“Now I pay much more attention to where it is accepted, and where I am able to help,” Lee said. “Chelsea has opened up so many doors, with just this subject, for me to look in to. I want to fight for it. I want to know what is going on in other states. I’m getting more educated every day, and I have a bigger interest in it now.”

Lee also said she has been in contact with the Michigan branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, and has asked for legal guidance.

McCarty said her and Lee are strongly considering having children, but added the legal red tape makes the process difficult.

“I think the biggest challenge is the legalities, because you can’t legally adopt,” McCarty said.

Lee said she was in a previous relationship with a woman who had a child, and the child was often teased for not having a father. Lee said she is worried her own child may encounter the same negativity.

“We’re no different from any regular mom and dad,” Lee said. “We are two parents that care for our child…we’re just girls.”

East Lansing residents William and Michael Sawyer-Todd have been together for nearly 14 years, and were married on Nov. 13, 2013 in upstate New York. A relationship that began strictly via email communication turned into “love at first sight,” Michael said.

William said he and his partner considered themselves married long before their ceremony. He said, to them, it was real after the night they exchanged rings, on the bench where they first kissed on Michigan State’s campus in 2001. Sawyer-Todd said being officially recognized was a big moment.

“We felt enfranchised for the first time. It didn’t change our relationship one iota, but our government finally recognized us,” said Sawyer-Todd, who works as a legislative liaison for the Michigan Department of Treasury. “That’s something that, when I came out in the ‘70s, we didn’t dream of…” http://youtu.be/ETMLtZFSPPg

Both William and Michael are involved with the Lansing Association for Human Rights Political Action Committee (LAHR-PAC), and William is a member of the Lansing ACLU and the East Lansing Human Relations commission.

Like McCarty and Lee, William Sawyer-Todd said he and his husband are confident the state will recognize same-sex marriages very soon, and added they don’t conduct their lives differently than any other couple.

“It’s not like we wash the ‘gay’ laundry and do the ‘gay’ tax books,” William Sawyer-Todd said. “Or mow the ‘gay’ lawn,” Michael Sawyer-Todd said. http://youtu.be/s92o5usNPfk

William Sawyer-Todd said he is concerned about whether his husband will have access to his pension, which is currently prohibited until the state recognizes their marriage.

Penny Gardner has been with her partner, Marilyn Bowen for 17 years. As the current president of LAHR, Gardner said she is dedicated to providing a voice for LGBT members in her area.

“We are a local LGBT advocacy group that has been in business for nearly 40 years,” Gardner said. “We’ve become the spokespeople for the LGBT community here in Lansing.”

Gardner, a Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures professor at MSU, said she was married twice before, in heterosexual relationships, but does not plan on getting married again.

“I just know that Marilyn and I are committed to each other, and as soon as we thought about marriage, it became scary,” said Gardner, who moved to the Lansing area in January of 1994.

Gardner also said the state’s involvement in the marriage process is another reason her and her partner don’t plan on pursuing marriage, but added she believes every couple should have the choice to be married, regardless of their sexual preference.

“I don’t believe the state should be in the marriage business at all. And if it is, the marriage should be a civil contract,” Gardner said. “As long as the state is in the business, it needs to be in the business for all of us.” http://youtu.be/FQOlTjgIqXc

Outside of her work with LAHR, Gardner said she is also dedicated to assisting fighting against discrimination and protecting the human rights of elderly LGBT community members. Her concern for elderly LGBT members is similar to Lee’s concern for her future child

“They get harassed and bullied just like kids in school,” Gardner said. “If they come out, they often go back into the closet if they have to be in a facility, rehabilitation or even go to their doctor.”

The same-sex marriage ruling on March 22, 2014 allowed 300 couples to be married in the state of Michigan, and was a landmark moment for the LGBT community. However, since the state has yet to officially recognize the marriages, many of these couples are suspended in limbo, and same-sex couples statewide are experiencing struggles ranging from a lack of financial benefits, such as pension access and tax filing status, to child adoption.

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New snow removal ordinance for East Lansing residents begins next season

By Richie Carni
Entirely East Lansing staff writer

EAST LANSING—After one of the snowiest winters in recent years, East Lansing has implemented a new snow ordinance that will take effect next snow season. The ordinance, which is an expansion of the current snow-removal regulations, was passed in an effort to make the process more efficient and eliminate confusion.

Councilwoman Ruth Beier, a key part in the introduction of this ordinance, said public safety was another big motivation.

“We have 20,000 people that walk every day on those sidewalks,” Beier said. “And I don’t want to be a city councilperson when somebody gets killed because they had to walk in the street. I would rather fine people than risk lives.”

City Manager George Lahanas said heavy snowfall shed light on some of the deficiencies in the previous ordinance.

“Last year was a very light snow winter. Now that we have these days of consecutive snowing, we see that we have to get people out there to clear their sidewalks because we have too many people walking in the street,” Lahanas said.

Lahanas said it was very difficult to enforce those situations of consecutive snowfall under the old ordinance, because it becomes very difficult to know exactly when the snow must be cleared. Under the new ordinance, snow that accumulates before noon on a sidewalk must be cleared by midnight. Any accumulation that occurs after noon on a sidewalk must be cleared by midnight of the following day.

Mayor Nathan Triplett said, “There are some residents who hire a service, so they never have to pick up a shovel themselves. There are some like me who are out there once or twice a day during the winter shoveling my own walk, and there are plenty of options in-between. How people choose to meet the requirements of the ordinance is completely up to them.”

Failure to comply with the new ordinance will result in a fine from the city. A $25 fine will be issued for a first offense, a $75 fine will be issued for a second offense and a fine of $125 will be issued for each offense beyond that.

In cases of apartments and other rental properties, Triplett said the city will issue tickets to the landlord of apartment and townhome properties, and then it is between the landlord and the tenant to figure out who is going to pay it according to their lease agreement.

Lahanas said students and homeowners should find ways to keep their sidewalks clear during holiday breaks, because tickets will still be issued even if the homeowner is not present during the time of the snowfall.

Triplett said landowners must make it a priority to work in stride with the city in keeping the sidewalks surrounding East Lansing’s 8,000 properties clear and safe.

“Ultimately, the only thing that is going to get sidewalks in the community clear is people taking responsibility for their own walk and recognizing the mutual obligation that we have to keep our city walkable and accessible to everyone during the winter,” Triplett said.

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East Lansing Public Library is not protected against fires

By Richie Carni
Entirely East Lansing staff writer

EAST LANSING—The East Lansing Public Library was a major focus in Tuesday’s City Council meeting due to its lack of fire detection and suppression equipment. Donald Power was the first audience member to address the council, and he shared the concern he has regarding the library.

The East Lansing Public Library is a common destination both for East Lansing residents and MSU students.

“When I look at the library I am very concerned,” Power said. “First of all there is no sprinkler system to protect the million-dollar-plus collection of books. There never has been. Second the library has no fire alarm system either by light or sound.”

Power said he is especially worried about individuals who are physically impaired.

“I think about people with hearing impairment, and if we ever had a fire in that library, there is no way visibly or through sound to find those people and get them out,” Power said.

Councilwoman Ruth Beier said she, too, saw the danger in the situation.

“Other than a day-care center, it’s probably the worst building to not have an alarm, because it has people who are concentrating, people who are old and people who are young,” Beier said.

Beier said she could not believe a building like that could go without a fire safety system for so long.

“That building was built in the 1950s, but it was renovated in the mid 1990s and I was shocked,” Beier said. “I didn’t think you could get a permit and have a building renovated in the 1990s and not have a fire alarm.”

Power said he was aware the issue was being placed on the budget for this year, but stressed time is of the essence.

“It’s dangerous today. I realize that it’s in the budget, but I would say that the degree to which you could expedite the implementation of the fire system, ‘please do it,’” Power said. “People are at risk.”

Beier also said the issue needs to be resolved quickly.

“I am going to push to get it done quickly, because every day that remains open, it’s not safe,” said Beier, who is serving her first term.

Power said the council should not touch the library’s budget to install the fire safety systems.

All of the library’s vast collections are currently vulnerable in the event of a fire.

“This is something the city has an obligation to protect its buildings,” Power said. “It is no different than if the Police Department had a leak in the roof, you’re not going to charge (Police Chief) Juli (Liebler) for that.”

Beier said the library would not be financially responsible for installing the fire safety system.

“The general fund sets up a reserve for capital improvements in its building, and this would be a capital improvement,” Beier said. “So it wouldn’t come out of the library’s millage or their operating budget.”

City Manager George Lahanas said the city will hopefully get a portion of the fire alarm process done this year. He hopes the sprinkler portion, which is the more expensive portion, will be done next year.

Lahanas said, based on rough estimates from the Capital Improvement budget, the alarm system will cost $50 thousand and a sprinkler system will cost another $80 thousand. Lahanas also said his conversations with the Fire Marshall have made it clear that installing a dry suppressant to within a building of that size is too costly.

Lahanas said discussions on the Capital Improvement budget will take place throughout April. Approval of the budget in May before the fiscal year starts on July 1, 2014.

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The Effects of the FLDS church on East Lansing LDS members

By Nichole Igwe
Entirely East Lansing staff writer

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East Lansing Film Festival begins accepting submissions

By Richie Carni
Entirely East Lansing staff writer

EAST LANSING—Submissions for the 17th East Lansing Film Festival will be accepted starting in April. Filmmakers statewide can submit their work for the festival, which takes place from Oct. 30 to Nov. 6.

The festival lasts for an entire week at Studio C! in Okemos, with a portion taking place in Wells Hall on Michigan State’s campus.

East Lansing Film Festival director Susan Woods poses in her office on Abbot Road.

Susan Woods, director of the film festival, said there is no specific format the films need to follow.

“It includes all genres and all formats. There are no categories and it can be any length.” said Woods, who founded the East Lansing Film Festival in 1997. “We have had them as short as 30 seconds and as long as three hours.”

The Lake Michigan Film Contest takes place during the film festival. Woods said the Lake Michigan Film Contest features many filmmakers from other states, and has one small entry requirement.

“To qualify for the Lake Michigan Film Contest, the film has to be at least one-quarter produced, filmed or funded in the state of Michigan,” Woods said.

Woods said one of the best parts about the film festival is the way it unifies the two communities within East Lansing.

“It is one of the only true town and gown event in East Lansing,” said Woods, who writes the programs and handles fundraising for the festival. “It’s during the school year, it involves students and residents, and the films are shown both on and off campus.”

Dave Bernath, a member of the festival’s selection committee, said the selection process takes place through several meetings in the months leading up to the event. Bernath said committee members submissions home with them and meet roughly every two weeks to discuss which ones are the best.

Bernath said the committee, which is generally six or seven people, critiques each submission on creativity, picture and sound quality, and whether it keeps the viewer interested, among other things.

Woods said the key to a good film is a solid base.

“The most important thing about making a film is to have a good story. That’s all it is. You have to be able to tell a story, and that is what I think is sometimes the hardest thing for people to do.”

Although the committee chooses which films will be shown at the festival, Bernath said it is up to the fans to decide which ones win.

 Liz Harrow, a volunteer coordinator for the film festival, said there are a many ways to volunteer during the festival.

 “We have people who are basically hospitality workers—who help people find their way, we have people taking and selling tickets, and we have people selling popcorn,” Harrow said.

Harrow also said the festival is working to get more students involved.

“We are going to be having a couple of internships available through the film festival in the fall, which could involve contacting filmmakers and scheduling films,” Harrow said.

Questions regarding volunteer opportunities for the film festival can be sent to volunteer@elff.com.

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The Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project

Nichole Igwe
Entirely East Lansing staff writer

Uganda’s HIV/AIDS pandemic has left over 2.2 million children orphaned.

These children have had to go without food, shelter, clothing, healthcare and education. Although traditionally, the extended families of these children step in, the impact of this pandemic has become too much for these extended families.
The Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project located here in East Lansing, emerged from this crisis using grandmothers to save 43,000-orphaned children in southwestern Uganda.

These grandmothers who have lost their own children to AIDS are raising these children with the help of the project. The project provides them with economic opportunities that help them to care for their grandchildren. Coordinators train these grandmothers on practical life skills such as parenting, nursing, grief management, gardening, leadership, and business development. The most impecunious grandmothers are provided with secure homes, kitchens, pit latrines and a microfinance program where the grandmothers make products like baskets and jewelry that are sold in the US.

Development Coordinator in East Lansing Daniele Reisbig said, “Our Mukaakas (grandmothers) are dealing with the loss of their children. Nyaka was started, not to replace that loss because that would be impossible, but to show love and support like family. We love our children and Mukaakas and we believe in them.”
Working to free orphans from the cycle of poverty, the project’s mission is to end poverty through a holistic approach to healthcare, community development and education.

Office and Volunteer Coordinator, Granny Program Manager Desiree Kofoed said, “Nyaka didn’t just build a school and leave. Nyaka identified other barriers that were preventing children from going to school and leading a full life and decided to knock down those barriers one by one.”

The project also manages two primary schools in the rural region of Uganda where trained teachers are employed to educated 471 children this year including 60 preschool aged children. 191 students are sponsored to attend secondary school and vocational training. NAOP schools are completely free and NAOP students perform at the top three percent of the country’s schools in the district.

The Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project

The Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project

In 2012, Founder and Executive Director Twesigye Jackson Kaguri was chosen to be a CNN Hero for his unwearying attempts over the past 13 years to educate and enlighten these orphaned children in Uganda.
East Lansing Volunteer Ashleigh Lovette said, “The credit really goes to Jackson Kaguri and his commitment to community that has manifested as the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project. Through his dedication, I am able to serve something larger than myself.”

The project doesn’t only provide education and a good home for these children; they also provide two meals per day, uniforms, books, medical care and supplies for them. The project’s holistic approach is being copied all across other rural communities and countries around the world.
“Nyaka gives a sense of justice and hope back to the community. It brings us back to the idea that we are all citizens of the world and that we can all do our part to make the world a better place,” said Lovette.

Website

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More than just a job

By Katie Stiefel
Entirely East Lansing staff writer

A single night can be 50 miles long.

Noodles & Company bike delivery man Cody Krupp has delivered food on two wheels for four months and thinks of it as more of a hobby than a job. He rides a minimum of 20 miles per shift and enjoys each mile as much as the last.

Noodles & Company bike delivery man Cody Krupp may bike up to 50 miles in one work shift.

Noodles & Company bike delivery man Cody Krupp may bike up to 50 miles in one work shift.

“Some people run, some people skateboard and I like biking; it’s my ‘me’ time where I can think and do whatever,” Krupp said.

Krupp applied for the job after meeting three other Noodles & Company bike delivery people through the Michigan State University Fixed Gear Club. A fixed geared bike is one that will not coast but only move forward by pedaling.

He learned how to ride a bike at age five and has been biking as a hobby since then. Over the summer Krupp rides 25 miles around the greater Lansing area about four times a week. Continue reading

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Cowboy Cotillion rides into town

By Katie Stiefel
Entirely East Lansing staff writer

There was a sea of flannel, cowboy hats and boots.

The Cowboy Cotillion, hosted by the East Lansing Parks, Recreation and Arts department, held March 19 in the Hannah Community Center, 819 Abbot Road. More than 100 preschool, elementary and middle school boys and their loved ones attended the event.

Animal science junior Tabitha Bll helps East Lansing resident Gabriel Burch, 5, lasso a fake bull.

Animal science junior Tabitha Bll helps East Lansing resident Gabriel Burch, 5, lasso a fake bull.

East Lansing program coordinator Kathleen Miller organized the event with the help of the Parks, Recreation and Arts staff workers. The event started as a mother-son night for boys because young girls had the daddy-daughter dance earlier in the year.

“Historically, we’ve always done a special event for the dads and daughters and we don’t want to leave the boys out so we like to make sure we always plan some type of activity,” Miller said.

This was the second year there had been a western-themed mother-son activity night, and the second time miniature horses have been available for petting in the gymnasium. Continue reading

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School liaison officer gives update during Board of Education

By Katie Stiefel
Entirely East Lansing staff writer

The technology has changed since 2004, and so have students.

Det. Steven Whelan of the East Lansing Police Department Detective Bureau and school liaison officer updated the Board of Education on recent technological advances and emergency protocols within the school district on March 10.

Whelan has worked in East Lansing High School as liaison officer since 2004 and said that he has seen positive changes.

Det. Steven Whelan speaks to the Board of Education

Det. Steven Whelan speaks to the Board of Education

“The atmosphere when I came in years ago, there was a lot of turmoil. There were a lot more fights and things,” Whelan said.

Whelan credits the school district administration for the change in atmosphere due to its consistency and high expectations for students.

Not only has the environment in the high school improved, but so has the technology. Continue reading

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East Lansing Film Festival prepares to accept submissions

By Richie Carni
Entirely East Lansing staff writer

EAST LANSING—Submissions for the 17th East Lansing Film Festival will be accepted starting in April. Filmmakers statewide can submit their work for the festival, which begins in the last week of October.

The festival lasts for an entire week at Studio C! in Okemos, with a portion taking place in Wells Hall on Michigan State’s campus.

Susan Woods, director of the film festival, said there is no specific format the films need to follow.

“It includes all genres and all formats. There are no categories and it can be any length.” said Woods, who founded the East Lansing Film Festival in 1997. “We have had them as short as 30 seconds and as long as three hours.”

The Lake Michigan Film Contest takes place during the film festival. Woods said the Lake Michigan Film Contest features many filmmakers from other states, and has one small entry requirement.

“To qualify for the Lake Michigan Film Contest, the film has to be at least one-quarter produced, filmed or funded in the state of Michigan,” Woods said.

Woods said one of the best parts about the film festival is the way it unifies the two communities within East Lansing.

“It is one of the only true town and gown event in East Lansing,” said Woods, who writes the programs and handles fundraising for the festival. “It’s during the school year, it involves students and residents, and the films are shown both on and off campus.”

Dave Bernath, a member of the festival’s selection committee, said the selection process takes place through several meetings in the months leading up to the event. Bernath said committee members submissions home with them and meet roughly every two weeks to discuss which ones are the best.

Bernath said the committee, which is generally six or seven people, critiques each submission on creativity, picture and sound quality, and whether it keeps the viewer interested, among other things.

Woods said the key to a good film is a solid base.

“The most important thing about making a film is to have a good story. That’s all it is. You have to be able to tell a story, and that is what I think is sometimes the hardest thing for people to do.”

Although the committee chooses which films will be shown at the festival, Bernath said it is up to the fans to decide which ones win.

Liz Harrow, a volunteer coordinator for the film festival, said there are a many ways to volunteer during the festival.

“We have people who are basically hospitality workers—who help people find their way, we have people taking and selling tickets, and we have people selling popcorn,” Harrow said.

Harrow also said the festival is working to get more students involved.

“We are going to be having a couple of internships available through the film festival in the fall, which could involve contacting filmmakers and scheduling films,” Harrow said.

Questions regarding volunteer opportunities for the film festival can be sent to volunteer@elff.com.

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