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A Call for Michigan To Protect LGBT Citizens

March 31, 2009

East Lansing, MI - Hate crimes against people who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) increased by 133 percent in Michigan last year, according to the Triangle Foundation, a group that has compiled such reports in the state since 1992.

The problem was explored at a forum sponsored by the Michigan State University student chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. Heather Grace, with the American Friends Service Committee's Inclusive Justice Program, told the gathering that young gays and lesbians in Michigan often experience harassment in school, which leads to increased dropout rates and poverty.

Gay youth also are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers; the incidence rate increases for transgender youth, says Grace. She points out that, while many states protect LGBT citizens with legislation, Michigan is not among them.

"Eighty-nine percent of folks in the nation support equal rights in employment - and yet, discrimination in much of Michigan employment, housing, public accommodations, public service and educational facilities, is still legal."

Opponents believe LGBT-specific laws are unnecessary; that current anti-discrimination laws already protect all people.
Grace disagrees, and is convinced that a continued dialogue is important to ease the fears on both sides.

"While organizations, schools and businesses can do the best they can to create safe spaces with better policies and legislation, every individual has the opportunity to choose a more loving and less judgmental approach."

The goal, says Grace, is to make Michigan a safe state for everyone, by helping people learn more about one another and protecting all citizens.

Tony Bruscato, Public News Service - MI