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.
Old Town Lansing Times Staff Reporter
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) community has been a big part of Old Town’s rich history and the acceptance of it is a big reason why those within the neighborhood and visitors feel a close-knit, family-like bond. Acceptance is in Old Town’s fabric. The tolerance for those that identify as LGBT can be seen as a symbol of the openness Old Town has for people of all colors, backgrounds, gender, sexual orientation, and beliefs. Maintaining the ability to express yourself and feeling welcome at all times is a huge part of the Old Town fabric. General Manager of Spiral Dance Bar, Sam Courtney, says it’s important for Old Town businesses to promote a welcoming and a tolerant message.
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.
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. According to the 2013 Michigan Youth Risk Behavior Survey, the 8.7 percent of high school students who identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual were 4.6 times more likely to attempt suicide, three times more likely to be threatened or injured with a weapon on school grounds in the past 12 months and 2.7 times more likely to miss at least one day in the past 30 because of safety concerns. That shift in awareness on the part of educators is reflected in the growing number of participants in the program, along with the demand for an advanced course, she said.
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.”
This legislation would provide legal protections for people in Michigan who refuse to provide services to individuals based upon religious beliefs. Opponents of the legislation say it would allow businesses to discriminate against individuals, particularly those in the LGBT–lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender– community.
LANSING-Organizations across Lansing are responding to a package of bills passed by the Michigan House of Representatives, which allows state funded agencies the right to deny service to potential parents based on “sincerely held religious beliefs.”
Of the multiple faith based adoption agencies in Michigan, Bethany Christian Services (BCS) is the largest among them. When contacted, BCS refused to speak directly to reporters but did release a press statement addressing the proposed bills:
“The legislation approved by the House preserves in law Michigan’s longstanding public/private partnership with a diverse group of private, secular, and faith-based agencies that work side-by-side to find permanent, loving homes for vulnerable children. It doesn’t restrict anyone from participating in foster care or adoption, but it does preserve for faith-based agencies the freedom to be faithful to our convictions,” it read. However, not all of Lansing agrees with the statement that the bills do not restrict parental candidates. Equality Michigan, the only statewide advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) peoples and HIV sufferers with offices in Detroit and Lansing, spoke out at an anti-adoption bill rally.
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. “It’s an individual person thing,” Nelson said.
The East Lansing City Council has called on the Michigan Legislature to immediately ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. According to Mayor Nathan Triplett, East Lansing has been a leader in this type of legislation for a long time. The council urged the Legislature to act in a resolution passed at its Sept. 16 meeting. This city was also one of the first to pass legislation banning discrimination based on race, said Triplett.
OLD TOWN- Business owners and officials of Old Town express their acceptance and support of the LGBT community. Old Town hosts the Michigan Pride March, Rally & Festival once a year where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and straight allies are celebrated with a white party kick off. There is a march to the Capitol, a rally on East Lawn then a return to Old Town for entertainment for all ages. Business owners of Old Town acknowledge this pride event but insist that Old Town’s acceptance and love for the LGBT community is a permanent thing, not just a publicity stunt. “I would hope that everyone always feels comfortable in their own skin, walking around in this neighborhood,” said Ashley Lamb, owner of Old Town’s Lambs’ Gate Antiques.
The toughest non-discrimination ordinance in the state received unanimous approval from the Delhi Township board Oct. 1. The ordinance attempts to protect members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community from being denied service, employment or housing because of their sexual orientation or identity. The ordinance provides the most severe punishments in the state. It carries a $500 fine for a first offense, $750 for a second and $1,000 for a third.