The new executive director of the Kalamazoo Gay Lesbian Resource Center says the organization faces the same challenges as many other non-profit groups.
Jay Maddock was named executive director this month by the center's board of directors. He says the goal should be to serve the part of the community "that needs us the most." Maddock says that means homeless people, youth, aging populations, people of color and transgender people are not left behind in the community.
Oral arguments are scheduled for August in front of the 6th U.S. Circuit of Appeals on Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage. A federal judge ruled earlier this year that the ban violates the U.S Constitution. That ruling has been stayed while it's appealed. Maddock says in Michigan gay and transgender people can be discriminated against legally in employment and housing. He says a court ruling striking down the ban on gay marriage would be an important statement. Maddock says "separate, but equal" has always been a "dangerous walkway of exclusion." He says if the court upholds the ban on same-sex marriage, another ballot proposal should be pursued to legalize same-sex marriage in Michigan.
Governor Rick Snyder and some leaders in the Legislature have said they are willing to consider amending the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. Maddock says that would help make Michigan a more welcoming state. He says people should not denied a job or housing because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
The home of a lesbian couple in Kalamazoo was recently vandalized and graffiti was sprayed on the walls saying "move or die." Maddock says this shows why Michigan needs to add protections for gay people to the state's hate crimes law. He says currently there are no extra penalties for hate speech against gays and lesbians. Maddock says a "hate crime awareness coalition" has been formed to focus on the issue.
Maddock says while issues like same-sex marriage and changing anti-discrimination laws may get a lot of attention, other issues are important and may soon be on the radar. He says that includes caring for elderly gay people, who have found aging agencies are not ready to serve them. Maddock says violence against transgender people, especially transgender women of color has been on the increase. He hopes there will be more attention providing them a safe environment.