Last edited: January 02, 2005


Group Brings Civil Rights Demands to Capitol

Reform to State’s Gross Indecency, Sodomy Laws Are Focus of Agenda

MSU State News, March 1999

By Mary Sell
State News staff writer

With intent to capture the attention of Michigan residents and demand equal rights, a group of civil rights activists met at the Capitol on Thursday to review anti­gay laws.

Members of the Triangle Foundation, a Detroit­based civil rights group, released a report outlining changes the Legislature would need to make to ensure equal treatment for lesbians, bisexuals, gays and transgendered residents.

The report, "The State of the State: GLBT Equality in Michigan," included adding sexual orientation to Michigan’s hate crime legislation and ridding the state of sodomy and gross indecency laws.

"The fact of the matter is that LBGT people are not afforded full civil rights or status," executive director Jeffrey Montgomery said. "That should not just outrage LBGT people, but all people who value their freedom."

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people are in danger of being considered second­class citizens, Montgomery said.

Next week starts Equality Begins at Home, a national campaign to draw attention to efforts to pass hate crime laws, civil rights laws, supportive family laws and to fight anti­gay initiatives.

In Michigan, lesbians, bisexuals, gays and transgendered people are not protected by the state’s civil rights act. By law, gays and lesbians are not allowed to marry and employers do not have to extend insurance benefits to the partners of gay and lesbian employees.

People also can be fired or demoted because of their sexual orientation, said Chris Swope, of the Lansing Association for Human Rights. He said only nine cities in Michigan — including East Lansing, Ann Arbor and Detroit — extend civil rights laws to their residents.

"In Lansing, the capital of our state, we have no civil rights protection," Swope said.

Rep. Lynne Martinez, D­Lansing, recently submitted an amendment to include sexual orientation into the state’s hate crime legislation.

Three people have been killed this year in Michigan in anti­gay hate crimes, Montgomery said.

Members of the Triangle Foundation also hope to see a change in the state’s sodomy and gross indecency laws.

"If (sodomy) is on our law books, I don’t think anything else matters," said Christine Yared, a member of the Lesbian and Gay Community Network of Western Michigan.

Sodomy laws classify anal intercourse as criminal.

"(The laws don’t) mean it is illegal to be gay, but it is illegal to have sex with a member of the same sex," said John Huebler, who attended the conference. Huebler is a former MSU employee who helped win domestic partner benefits for university employees.

Yared, a professor at Grand Valley State University and family law practice attorney, said Michigan’s laws also neglect to protect the children of gay and lesbians.

While she and her partner have three children, Yared said many gays and lesbians seeking to adopt must hide their sexuality to avoid being denied.

"There is no recourse," she said. "There are no discrimination laws to protect you. You are out of luck."

Yared said in her lifetime there will be numerous advancements in the state for lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgendered people.

"I think we will see a lot of changes, but (the state) will not be completely unbiased," she said. "I still think we can make a lot of progress."

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