This Is A Roundup Post: Michigan Edition

The last time Michigan was in the gay news, it was for SB 137, or “Matt’s Safe School Law,” which ostensibly worked to prevent bullying but, paradoxically, actually gave both students and school employees permission to say anything they wanted, no matter how vitriolic, to any student at all. SB 137, which allowed for virtually any kind of speech or treatment of others so long as it was based in a sincere “moral conviction,” didn’t make it into law, in large part because of public outcry against it. It’s been replaced with HB 4163, which doesn’t explicitly allow teachers or students to taunt others and claim their religious or moral beliefs as a defense, but also doesn’t list “enumerated classes” to be protected from bullying, which many experts say is key to effective legislation.


That doesn’t mean that all is well between the state of Michigan and the gay community, however. After the vote on marriage equality in New York, Janice Daniels posted an update to Facebook that said “I think I am going to throw away my I Love New York carrying bag now that queers can get married there.” Now that Daniels is the newly-elected mayor of Troy, a suburb of Detroit, Daniels’ remark is drawing attention. Last night a protest took place outside Troy’s city hall, with the executive director of Equality Michigan saying “I was shocked. I was appalled. The choice of language underscores an inherent bigotry that manifests itself in discrimination. ” Daniels has been quoted as saying she “may have said something like that,” although she “probably shouldn’t have used that language,” but still believes that marriage is between one man and one woman. Regardless, however, Daniels says she doesn’t dislike gay people. “I love all people. I am human.”

Not far away, in Traverse City an elementary school music teacher is being criticized for his attempt to remove the word “gay” from the Christmas carol “Deck the Halls.” According to the music teacher, it wasn’t an instance of homophobia, but an attempt to keep order in the classroom and stop students from giggling every time the carol was sung. Nonetheless, parents say they’re upset and the school’s principal said he wished it had been used as a teachable moment. The carol’s wording has since been returned to the original for the purposes of the music class.

Meanwhile, in Kalamazoo, the city’s Gay and Lesbian Resource Center has a new executive director, and he’s optimistic about his city’s relationship to the GLBT community.

Zach Bauer, 30, who took over the LGBT education and advocacy group’s top job a few weeks ago, pointed to an ordinance passed overwhelmingly by city of Kalamazoo voters in 2009 that extends anti-discrimination protections to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people as proof that Kalamazoo is a “progressive, grass-roots community.”

A former corpsman in the US Navy and graduate of local Western Michigan University, Bauer is interested in collaborating with other non-profit and faith-based agencies in Kalamazoo. His drive to provide resources, support and education to the local queer community is an inspiring example of what a great place Michigan can be for the LGBT community — a reminder that it’s been a place that people move to because they can get equal benefits for their partners and protection for their families, even if the current administration and  some local politicians don’t seem to value that. At least in southern Michigan, the message from the people is clear: they want Michigan to be a safe and accepting place to live. What will it take for politicians to agree?

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Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

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  1. Troy is my hometown and other than the Somerset Mall, it totally sucks. In other embarrassing Troy news, the voters there chose this summer to shutter their library – a very nice library, I might add – rather than pay a very slight tax increase.

    The thing with the mayor doesn’t surprise me as all the campaign mailings we got for city elections were about how they every candidate was the “conservative family values candidate” because they hated gay marriages and abortion the most.

    At least the younger residents of Troy are more liberal than their parents and grandparents; I’m glad to see Troy High students standing up against the mayor. Troy has a lot of racial and religious diversity, it’s always really sad to see its white fundamentalist-Christian residents acting like they’re the only ones who live there (as happens a lot).

    • I love Somerset Mall! The moving walks make me happy.
      But in general these are sad Michigan stories. I send my good wishes to Zach Bauer.

      • I LOVED SOMERSET MALL. going to briarwood mall where i lived was one thing, and going to twelve oaks which was in novi, i think, was another thing, and then going to somerset was the best thing for serious business like prom or christmas or whatever.

        also all of these stories are sad

        • Yeah, Somerset Mall (technically Somerset Collection – we had a Facebook group back in high school called “I don’t shop at a mall, I shop at a Collection”) is the one thing in Troy we always visit when my family goes back to Michigan. It just makes you feel so swanky and fabulous shopping there because the mall is so swanky and fabulous, especially the South side.

          Even if they have the most bizarre Christmas decorations.

          I feel like Towson Town Center here tries to be that fancy, but it just doesn’t even come close.

        • Dude, I live 5 minutes away from Briarwood. It was like the worst day of my life when they got rid of the dollar theater.

    • I’ve never shopped at the Somerset Collection, I feel like I’m too low class and would break some kind of mall code?

      • Don’t forget about fabulous Ferndale! I love living in a city where I could spot our former mayor (Craig Covey) all the time at the gay bar. Our new mayor (Dave Coulter) is also gay, but he looks more like the type to hang out in a wine bar than Soho. :)

        “Dave’s always been more establishment than me,” Covey said. “He has always been very involved in his church and very active in politics and the Democratic Party. I came up being prominent in the fight for gay rights. He’s a community leader who is gay. I’m a gay rights leader who happens to serve in politics. The world needs both.”
        (from here:

  2. Where’s the happy news about Traverse City passing its non-discrimination ordinance in November? Despite a particular coffee shop donating (throwing away) $3,000 to the opposition, might I add. ;)

  3. also also–hi folks!–can we talk some more about hb 4770 and hb 4771, which you’ve written about before Rachel, and which are bad news for queers and nonheteronormative straighties and unions and the public sector and basically anyone with a soul.

    (these bills would collectively would remove domestic partner benefits for employees at public institutions and prohibit unions from even making such benefits the subject of bargaining.)

    I too want to know what it will take for politicians to agree that Michigan is not as hateful as they are making it become.

  4. Michigan is surely a strange place for lgbt people. Especially west Michigan, luckily major progress is being made. I am personally involved in transgender activism in West Michigan, check out the website of our group, the Transgender Education Collaboration-

    Michigan has a strange way of making you like it even if it’s a weird place.

    I’ve been reading Autostraddle for awhile now. But finally decided to comment for this. Hope you all are well

  5. The only time I’ve worked in the US was a month in Michigan, where I ended up befriending a gay guy I bumped into several times in Walmart. We had a big discussion about how low-fat ice-cream was just not fun in comparison to its full fat counterpart. Having been a few weeks already in the middle of nowhere (Sturgis), without even a whiff of gayness nearby, it was lovely to meet another homo by pure chance.

  6. “Michigan has a strange way of making you like it even if it’s a weird place.”

    Totally agreed. I grew up around Flint (“America’s Least Functional City”) and I still love it.

    I wish I was there now to protest. Well done, kids!

  7. Pingback: Don’t Mess With a Lesbian Mom in Distress | YGA(dot)Net

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