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Michigan Civil Rights Commission Endorses Model Local LGBT Non-Discrimination Ordinance

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 1.29.36 PMThe Michigan Civil Rights Commission endorsed a model local non-discrimination ordinance that covers sexual orientation and gender identity at a meeting held at the Holocaust Memorial Center on Monday reports the Daily Reporter. The ordinance states that no one should be denied "civil rights or be discriminated against," on the basis of gender expression, identity and sexual orientation. The model also bars bias based on education, age, disability, race, sex, religion, weight, national origin, marriage or family status. Commission Chairman Arthur Horwitz stated that the ordinance is designed to provide a more cohesive anti-discrimination view for over 30 Michigan municipalities.

Said Horwitz:

"The concept of developing a model non-discrimination ordinance grew from the fact that more than 30 Michigan municipalities have non-discrimination ordinances that vary significantly in their structure, wording and scope... developed model language that municipalities could access if, in their own discretion, they decided they wanted a starting point for their own discussions and deliberations."

In a January appearance before the commission, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder expressed hope that the GOP-controlled Michigan legislature would continue discussing a bill to add protections for gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual people to the state civil rights law. However, House Speaker Kevin Cotter, a Midland Republican and American Family Association of Michigan leader, believes the measure is unnecessary saying that gay and gender identity laws are a "solution in search of a nonexistent problem," and that they "have a history of themselves being discriminatory" in forcing people to choose between their morals or religious beliefs.

Dropped Planet Fitness Member Sues Company For Being Too Transgender-Friendly: VIDEO

Yvette cormier

Yvette Cormier, who had her Planet Fitness membership revoked after making waves about trans woman Carlotta Sklodowska using the women’s locker room, has sued the fitness chain for more than $25,000, reports MLive.com.

LogoAfter complaining to local staff in Michigan and escalating her concerns with corporate offices, Planet Fitness enacted its “Judgement Free Zone” policy and cancelled Cormier’s membership on March 4th.

A press release detailing the lawsuit reads in part:

"Ms. Cormier was wrongfully denied the benefits of her contract with Planet Fitness and wrongfully denied the use of the public accommodations at Defendant's gym because she objected to Defendant's unknown policy.

"Mrs. Cormier has filed this lawsuit to protect Michigan women and children and to hold Planet Fitness accountable for its irresponsible policy and actions. This case further illustrates the potential harm caused by adding the proposed new categories of sexual orientation/gender identity to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.”

Elliott-Larsen prohibits discrimination based on race, age, sex, religion and more, but does not offer protections based on sexual orientation.

Cormier’s complaint lists the alleged damages she suffered as "loss of use of gym facilities," "fear about using the gym facilities," "embarrassment and humiliation," "severe emotional distress" and "damage to reputation."

It claims Cormier's rights were violated in seven counts including breach of contract, an exemplary damages claim, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress and three counts of sexual harassment under Elliott-Larsen.

According to the summons and complaint, she suffered "aggravation, annoyance, discomfort, disgrace, feelings of oppression, humiliation, inconvenience, indignation, insult, mental anxiety, mental suffering, mortification, outrage, scorn, shame, sorrow, vexation, and worry."

Planet Fitness has declined to comment on the case.

Watch a report on the lawsuit and a CNN interview with Cormier, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Bills Targeting Gay Adoption Advance In Florida, Michigan, Become Flavor Of Week In Anti-LGBT Legislation


We've seen the "license to discriminate" bills that would allow businesses to turn away LGBT people based on religious beliefs. We've seen the bills that would prohibit cities from adding LGBT protections. We've seen the bills directly targeting same-sex marriage, such as revoking the salaries of clerks who issue licenses to gay couples — or even doing away with them altogether. And we've seen the bills that would make it a crime for transgender people to use restrooms according to their gender identity. 

Now, proposals targeting gay adoption have advanced in Florida and Michigan, with similar measures introduced in other states, signaling the latest flavor of anti-LGBT legislation in response to the spread of same-sex marriage to 38 states. (The Human Rights Campaign reports that 85 anti-LGBT bills have now been filed in 26 state legislatures, as shown on the map above.)

The Michigan House voted 65-44 on Wednesday to approve measures that would allow adoption agencies that contract with the state to discriminate against gays if it's part of their "sincerely held religious beliefs." The Hufffington Post reports: 

The legislation would protect agencies refusing service over religious beliefs from “adverse action” by the state, including limiting public funding and “discriminating against the child placing agency.”

A series of Democrats spoke in opposition to the bills on the House floor Wednesday, arguing that it is backwards to make it potentially more difficult for LGBT families to adopt while there are several thousand children in Michigan waiting to find parents.

"No matter how well intentioned, these [bills] will produce bad results," said Rep. Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo). "They put the best interest of the agency over the child, they are discriminatory ... They violate our state constitution by elevating some religious beliefs above others. ... They allow agencies to pick and choose what children they want to service [without having to be transparent].”

Meanwhile, a Florida House committee approved a similar measure — coincidentally, one week after the full House voted to repeal the state's unconstitutional ban on gay adoption. From The Florida Times-Union

Now, conservative groups are warning that some private agencies would close their doors rather than comply with a state law allowing gays and lesbians to adopt.

“My fear … is that some wonderful organizations who promote some forever families might likely have to shut down because they can’t reconcile their beliefs with the state,” said House Health & Human Services Chairman Jason Brodeur ... 

The “conscience protection” bill would prevent the state from denying funds or licenses to private adoption agencies that refuse to make placements conflicting with the agencies’ written religious beliefs.

Shockingly, one supporter of the Florida bill acknowledged that in addition to licensing discrimination against gays, the bill would allow agencies affiliated with one faith to turn away parents from another: 

“So as a single Jewish woman who was raised Catholic, I need not apply if I want to adopt a child?” asked Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation.

“It probably would not be facilitated through a Catholic organization,” acknowledged Michael Sheedy of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Maybe the "unintended consequences" of these "religious freedom" bills aren't so unintended after all. 

East Grand Rapids Becomes 36th Michigan City To Add LGBT Protections: VIDEO

EGREast Grand Rapids became the 36th city in Michigan to add LGBT protections on Monday. 

The City Commission in East Grand Rapids, population 10,000, voted unanimously to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the city's existing nondiscrimination ordinance. 

MLive.com reports: 

The majority of those in attendance at the public hearing before the official vote spoke in favor of the move. A few told personal stories and described inequalities that exist even when laws are present, and many praised East Grand Rapids as a "welcoming place" that has allowed them to live peacefully in whatever lifestyle  they choose. Several commented that because the community has generally been so inclusive, they were surprised when they found out that the law wasn't already on the books.

Former City Mayor Cindy Bartman offered her support for what she called "this very important ordinance."

"EGR has a long and proud history as an open and inclusive community," said Bartman. "East was the very first high school to establish a Gay-Straight Alliance and today following our lead, almost every high school in the state has one. A lesser known fact," she said, "was when the state offered a constitution banning gay marriage. If you look back at those results, you will find EGR was the only community in Kent and Ottawa County that said no."

WOOD-TV has more from the meeting: 

“When we were looking to where we wanted to raise our kids, there were multiple factors we took into consideration,” said East Grand Rapids resident Mary Whiting, who is in a same-sex relationship. “One was property values, safety, education and a sense of community, but the one that we had to consider that other people don’t have to consider is how would our family be perceived?” ... 

The city commission and residents who spoke Monday night were all in agreement, supporting the measure.

“It’s something that I can’t even understand the thought of a no vote,” First Ward Commissioner Bill Graham said.

The ordinance was first proposed over a year ago, but city officials hoped the state Legislature would add LGBT protections, which did not happen. Under the new ordinance, the city can fine violators up to $500 or seek an injunction against them in court. 

"Maybe by us passing this along with so many other communities, it will provide our state legislators the go ahead to do the right thing at the state level, where it (the law) would have more teeth," Mayor Amna Seibold told MLive.com. "But this is very basic equal rights for all."

Watch a report from WOOD-TV, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

Continue reading "East Grand Rapids Becomes 36th Michigan City To Add LGBT Protections: VIDEO" »

LGBT Activists Protest Outside Michigan Church Where Pastor Compared Gays To Axe Murderers


LGBT activists picketed a Michigan church for a second consecutive week on Sunday in response to the pastor's recent remarks comparing gays to axe murderers. 

EcholsPastor Clint Echols (right), of First Baptist Church in Zeeland, drew the comparison two weeks ago during a sermon about the need for the congregation to clarify its beliefs about marriage and sexuality by passing an amendment to its constitution, according to MLive.com

In the address to church members, Echols speaks about the attack on marriage between a man and a woman, framing homosexuality as a lifestyle choice that can be discovered at any point in a person's life.

"It's an internal compass and a person can discover their sexuality at any moment...oh wait a second, I'm gay, I'm bisexual, I want to change my gender, these things, and that's being true to themselves and being true to their internal compass " Echols says.

"For instance on another, a completely other playing field, if tomorrow I woke up because I have this internal compass that's telling me what truth is. Tomorrow, if I wake up and say, well, I think I'm an axe murderer, now I'm an axe murderer, would you be happy with that? Would you agree? Would you want me to follow that internal compass?"

The sermon prompted Zeeland resident Daniel Vanderley to launch a petition and organize protests outside the church last Sunday and today. Last Sunday, the protesters held Westboro Baptist Church-style signs (above) "to highlight the equal nature of vitriol" between the two congregations, according to Vanderley. 

WXMI-TV reports:  

“Living in a time where it’s hard enough to come out as a gay, in a community where it’s difficult enough to be gay, that to compare that to being an axe murderer does rise to the level of hate speech,” Vanderley told FOX 17 by phone Friday.

“They are breaking ‘love thy neighbor as thyself’ and in the process they’re putting in the minds of the kids who go to that church that being gay is not acceptable.”

Despite the backlash, MLive.com reports that Pastor Echols isn't backing down from his statements: 

Echols, the church pastor, said in his sermon the proposed amendment isn't hate speech, but rather God's word. He said "this vitriol we are facing as the church of Jesus Christ is because there are people who hate God."

"We're a church that tries to uphold the word of God in grace and in truth," Echols said by phone. "We will continue to honor God's word as a church with malice toward no one and love toward all."

Listen to a portion of the sermon and watch WXMI-TV's report, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "LGBT Activists Protest Outside Michigan Church Where Pastor Compared Gays To Axe Murderers" »

CNN And Local Michigan CBS Affiliate Broadcast Transphobic Segment On Planet Fitness: VIDEO

Screenshot 2015-03-10 19.23.45

CNN and WNEM, a Michigan-area CBS affiliate, have been doing their part to prove that oftentimes the media doesn’t know the first thing about how it should talk about trans-identified people.

Earlier this week we brought you the story of Yvette Cormier, a Midland, Michigan woman who took it upon herself to harass and badger Carlotta Sklodowska, a transgender member of her local Planet Fitness gym. After mistakenly identifying the transwoman as a man, outing the woman to other gym members, and attempting to have the woman kicked out of the gym, Cormier found herself banned from the location for violating Planet Fitness’s “No Judgement Zone” policy.

In a recently produced local television segment WNEM reporter Gino Vicci sat down with Cormier to hear her side of the story and allow her the space to make her arguments. Unsurprisingly, her justifications smack of transphobia and hostility.

“I was stunned and shocked,” Cormier said of the first time she saw the transwoman. “He totally looked like a man. He was not dressed like a woman at all.”

FitnessThe real issues at hand with the segment are WNEM’s questionable production and CNN’s decision to rebroadcast the footage nationally. Throughout WNEM’s original coverage, Vicci retells Cormier’s story and repeatedly refers to the harassed transwoman as a ‘man.’ In addition to Cormier the segment includes opinions from three other Midland Planet Fitness patrons asked to weigh in on Cormier’s expulsion. The specific question Vicci asked patrons was worded so as to deny the validity of a trans-person’s assertion of their gender identity:

“We asked them if they would be comfortable with sharing the locker room with the opposite sex or at least the appearance of the opposite sex.”

HASSELBECKThe responses, as one might expect, were resoundingly negative. As easy as it would be to write off their comments as being borne out of a small-town, conservative mindset, there is something to be said for the way that journalists handle stories like this. In many ways Fox News’s approach to the story has been similar to WNEM’s. In a recently aired episode of Fox & Friends Elisabeth Hasselbeck repeatedly misgenders Sklodowska and gives credence to the opinions of Dr. Keith Ablow, a frequent Fox contributor who purports to be a psychiatrist but spent most of his time on-air spouting nonsense.

“It's tough to speak about because we're so politically correct now that we get tongue tied. We can't say the obvious, which is this is craziness,” said Albow. “You're kicking out members because they feel uncomfortable that someone who seems to be a man to them and is genetically is looking at them naked when they're unclothed as women? That's craziness.”

While this sort of rhetoric has become the hallmark of much of Fox’s reporting on LGBT issues, the larger story highlights the power that verbal violence against trans-people can have. Gino Vicci has since made half-hearted apologies for repeatedly identifying Sklodowska as a man, but WNEM’s continued coverage of the local Planet Fitness has turned the gym’s decision to stand up for trans-rights into a cause for alarm.

Since WNEM’s first transphobic segment, station reporters have gone back to the gym to gather opinions from other people, but the damage of introducing the story as a man’s intrusion into the women’s locker room has already been done. We could all stand to learn from WNEM’s example and try harder to better share stories focusing on trans lives to more productive ends.

Watch the original segment from WNEM reporter Gino Vicci and the Fox & Friends discussion, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "CNN And Local Michigan CBS Affiliate Broadcast Transphobic Segment On Planet Fitness: VIDEO" »


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