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Big Conference Brings Cash and Controversy to Michigan

February 6, 2008

Detroit, MI – A national conference brings both cash and controversy to Michigan today. "Creating Change" is an event for thousands who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT). They'll be in Detroit through the weekend to talk about everything from civil rights and healthcare, to Baby Boomers' aging issues.

Derek Smiertka, with the group Michigan Equality says they'll also discuss Michigan's recent passage of state laws that some see as a coordinated "anti-gay attack" -- laws that he insists don't help the state's sagging economy, because they're not business-friendly.

"They're looking for education, they're looking for diversity. You don't do that by starting to say, 'We're going to eliminate these applicants because of sexual orientation.'"

Smiertka points out that the conference is bringing a much-needed influx of business to one of the nation's most economically-depressed areas, as well as some fresh thinking about how LGBT issues are connected to the economy. "Creating Change" also will feature business leaders who, he says, don't believe in treating the LGBT community as second-class citizens.

"Unfortunately, that's what our government is saying. Right now, Michigan says, 'We would rather not have them working here, and we don't want them to have the same benefits as everybody.'"

Supporters of the Michigan laws that restrict marriage only to opposite-sex couples, and laws that deny workplace benefits to same-sex partners, say they're concerned about preserving traditional families.

Deborah Smith/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - MI