Live coverage of gay rights hearing in Jackson
5:48
Bob Wheaton: 
Tonight the Michigan Department of Civil Rights is at Jackson City Hall seeking testimony on whether the state's civil rights law should be amended to protect people who are gay, bisexual, lesbian or transgender from discrimination. Legislation has been introduced to do so.
Monday May 21, 2012 5:48 Bob Wheaton
5:49
Bob Wheaton: 
Current Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act protects members as other groups, such as members of racial, religious or gender groups, from discrimination in areas such as employment and housing.
Monday May 21, 2012 5:49 Bob Wheaton
5:50
Bob Wheaton: 
The hearing starts in 10 minutes. So far there are fewer than 10 audience members. I would expect significantly more people to show up, but we'll see.
Monday May 21, 2012 5:50 Bob Wheaton
5:51
Bob Wheaton: 
I will try to answer any questions if they are submitted. By the way, I am the politics and local government reporter for the Jackson Citizen Patriot.
Monday May 21, 2012 5:51 Bob Wheaton
6:00
Bob Wheaton: 
The hearing is now starting. There are about 20 audience members, plus some media members.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:00 Bob Wheaton
6:01
Bob Wheaton: 
This is the first of several hearings that will be held, says Regina Calcagno, community organizer for the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:01 Bob Wheaton
6:03
Bob Wheaton: 
Calcagno says the department would like to hear testimony about how including sexual orientation or gender identity in the state civil rights act will affect you. She says they want comments supporting and opposing the change.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:03 Bob Wheaton
6:04
Bob Wheaton: 
Julia, who is transgender, says she could be fired from her job for being who she is.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:04 Bob Wheaton
6:07
Bob Wheaton: 
Man who opposes the proposed change says throwing out the Bible and morals is dangerous because it opens the door for "anything goes." Others will seek same protection, including pedophiles, he says.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:07 Bob Wheaton
6:08
Bob Wheaton: 
Mary Pollock of the ACLU of Michigan is speaking.
"There are no federal protections and that's why we need state protections in Michigan," she says of discrimination against people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:08 Bob Wheaton
6:09
Bob Wheaton: 
Other states have these types of protection, Pollock says.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:09 Bob Wheaton
6:10
Bob Wheaton: 
Pollock says the public supports these protections, but the state Legislature hasn't.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:10 Bob Wheaton
6:11
Bob Wheaton: 
About 30 people are now in the audience.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:11 Bob Wheaton
6:13
Bob Wheaton: 
Mother says that her daughter is a lesbian and is afraid she won't be able to get a job because of that.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:13 Bob Wheaton
6:15
Bob Wheaton: 
Man says you can't compare someone with a physical or mental disability with someone "who has chosen to be gay."
Monday May 21, 2012 6:15 Bob Wheaton
6:16
Bob Wheaton: 
Stasia Milligan, who's heading local efforts to pass city ordinance opposing discrimination based on sexual orientation, is speaking. She says she is a lesbian.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:16 Bob Wheaton
6:16
Bob Wheaton: 
She's part of the group Jackson Together.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:16 Bob Wheaton
6:18
Bob Wheaton: 
Another speaker, who is a lesbian, says she didn't chose to be gay.

“I can honestly say after years of attempting to pray it away, after a failed suicide attempt and an alcohol and drug addiction, nothing I did made me straight. Nothing I did was going to change who I was." Her voice is cracking as she speaks.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:18 Bob Wheaton
6:19
Bob Wheaton: 
She says her employer doesn't discriminate, but she's speaking on behalf of other gay and lesbian employees who fear losing their jobs.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:19 Bob Wheaton
6:20
Bob Wheaton: 
Rev. Cynthia Landrum is now speaking. She from Unitarian Universalist Church of Liberty, which she says supports gay and lesbian members.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:20 Bob Wheaton
6:21
Bob Wheaton: 
She says she has identified 10 religious leaders who support change when it comes to prohibiting discrimination against gays and lesbians. She says amending civil rights act in the right, moral and religious thing to do.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:21 Bob Wheaton
6:21
Bob Wheaton: 
Audience has grown to about 40.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:21 Bob Wheaton
6:22
Bob Wheaton: 
Another speaker is talking. She says she came out while in college.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:22 Bob Wheaton
6:22
Bob Wheaton: 
She's been with her partner since 1985.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:22 Bob Wheaton
6:23
Bob Wheaton: 
She said she was not hired for a job because she was too masculine.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:23 Bob Wheaton
6:24
Bob Wheaton: 
While working for a local nonprofit, she says she was afraid to let her employer know about her same-sex partner for quite some time.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:24 Bob Wheaton
6:25
Bob Wheaton: 
She says she would have been "much better able to have been myself and been more effective on the job" if Michigan protected lesbians from discrimination. She has left her previous job, but was not fired for being a lesbian.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:25 Bob Wheaton
6:27
Bob Wheaton: 
Man is speaking about the Underground Railroad.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:27 Bob Wheaton
6:27
Bob Wheaton: 
He says Michigan was involved in the Underground Railroad, and that Michigan has been a leader in civil rights.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:27 Bob Wheaton
6:28
Bob Wheaton: 
"Let's be on the right side of history," he says of adding gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people to those protected under state's civil rights act.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:28 Bob Wheaton
6:31
Bob Wheaton: 
Now Julie Nemecek is speaking. Her story drew national attention when the former John Nemecek came out as transgender and began undergoing a gender transformation. It led to a dispute with her employer, Spring Arbor University.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:31 Bob Wheaton
6:31
Bob Wheaton: 
Now that she's left SAU, she says she's making less than half her previous pay.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:31 Bob Wheaton
6:32
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
As Americans we pride ourselves on protecting the freedoms and liberties of our citizens. I do not understand why this is such a controversial debate topic, it is not as if passing such legislation would protect criminals,it simply prorects the right of people to live life to the fullest. If people have the right to practice religions that some others may find offensive, people should be equally protected in loving who ever they wish to love.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:32 Guest
6:33
Bob Wheaton: 
Representative from an advocacy group for gay, lesbian, transgender people in Michigan is now speaking.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:33 Bob Wheaton
6:34
Bob Wheaton: 
I just posted a reader comment from "Guest." Does anyone agree or disagree with what Guest said?
Monday May 21, 2012 6:34 Bob Wheaton
6:39
Bob Wheaton: 
Jon Hart says we need to protect minority rights. We need to extend those rights, he says.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:39 Bob Wheaton
6:40
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
i totally agree with the guest comment. We should be protected in who ever we decide to love.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:40 Guest
6:41
Bob Wheaton: 
Hart says that no one would choose to be part of a group that is discriminated against.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:41 Bob Wheaton
6:41
[Comment From John BJohn B: ] 
I agree with Guest. I don't see why people care so much. Live and let live; to each their own. But then, I came out at 14 and chose to surround myself with accepting, openminded individuals. Many people argue against LGBT rights because "it's against God's will." Even if that is the case, however, God didn't found the United States, and He sure didn't write the Constitution. I would tell those people to read the 1st section of the Constitution's 14th Ammendment.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:41 John B
6:41
[Comment From JxnCitizenJxnCitizen: ] 
I agree with Jon Hart and the guest comment above.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:41 JxnCitizen
6:41
Bob Wheaton: 
The mother of a gay son is now speaking.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:41 Bob Wheaton
6:42
Bob Wheaton: 
"I just want his rights protected," she says. "I'd like to make Michigan and Jackson a good place to stay and see them raise their families."
Monday May 21, 2012 6:42 Bob Wheaton
6:42
Bob Wheaton: 
City Councilman Derek Dobies is now speaking. He's a gay rights supporter.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:42 Bob Wheaton
6:43
Bob Wheaton: 
There are 18 communities in Michigan that provide protections for gays, Dobies says.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:43 Bob Wheaton
6:44
Bob Wheaton: 
Everyone should have the right to provide for their families, whether they're gay or lesbian or not.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:44 Bob Wheaton
6:46
Bob Wheaton: 
Representative of Fair Housing Center of Southeast Michigan is speaking.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:46 Bob Wheaton
6:46
Bob Wheaton: 
He says his office believes state's civil rights act should be expanded to protect gays, others.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:46 Bob Wheaton
6:49
Bob Wheaton: 
So far 14 supporters of protecting people from discrimination based on sexual orientation have spoken. Two opponents have spoken.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:49 Bob Wheaton
6:50
Bob Wheaton: 
The Rev. Jay Cummings of Jackson is speaking. He's pastor of St. John's United Church of Christ.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:50 Bob Wheaton
6:52
Bob Wheaton: 
He said his congregation "wrestled" with issue of LGBT. "We need to be open to all people," he says. Members of his church have had to hide who they are to "maintain or gain employment." He says they couldn't testify for themselves and still be employed. He knows of people had problems with housing for same reason.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:52 Bob Wheaton
6:52
Bob Wheaton: 
"Therefore I'm standing on behalf of our congregation tonight. And I would hope that the civil rights actions that are presented here will be passed," Cummings concludes.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:52 Bob Wheaton
6:53
Bob Wheaton: 
Man with his two young children is speaking.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:53 Bob Wheaton
6:53
Bob Wheaton: 
"I'd like them to grow up in a world where people are accepted for who they are and not discriminated against for being who they are," he says.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:53 Bob Wheaton
6:54
Bob Wheaton: 
He says it's a shame this has be even be regulated, but that since we have to do this, sexual orientation should be included in the state's civil rights act.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:54 Bob Wheaton
6:54
[Comment From JxnCitizenJxnCitizen: ] 
I feel that if it's "against God's will" - then let that be between God and that person. Every citizen should have the same rights as others and no one should be made to feel inferior. If we're going to move forward, we need to do it together. Building tolerance and community starts with each individual that actually respects the person next to them. Agree to disagree, that's fine. But disagreeing and making life harder for another is unacceptable.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:54 JxnCitizen
6:55
Bob Wheaton: 
He calls his elementary-school daughter to the podium. She tells the story of a female classmate who was teased for getting her hair cut short.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:55 Bob Wheaton
6:55
Bob Wheaton: 
Public comments are winding down.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:55 Bob Wheaton
6:56
Bob Wheaton: 
A Jackson woman who is speaking says she's never been discriminated against for being a lesbian. She runs a day care, and her parents know she is gay, she says, and don't have a problem.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:56 Bob Wheaton
6:56
Bob Wheaton: 
She says she's going to New York to get married because she can't get married in Michigan.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:56 Bob Wheaton
6:57
Bob Wheaton: 
"We're all the same. Love is love," she says.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:57 Bob Wheaton
6:58
Bob Wheaton: 
College student expresses support for legislation to amend state civil rights act.
Monday May 21, 2012 6:58 Bob Wheaton
6:58
Bob Wheaton: 
Not many people have publicly spoken against this proposal at the hearing? Anyone care to comment on why this might be the case?
Monday May 21, 2012 6:58 Bob Wheaton
7:01
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
I think it is because more and more Americans agree that we ALL citizens no matter who we are.
Monday May 21, 2012 7:01 Guest
7:02
Bob Wheaton: 
That's probably partially the case. There are also people who are probably hesitant to express a viewpoint that is not politically correct.
Monday May 21, 2012 7:02 Bob Wheaton
7:02
Bob Wheaton: 
The hearing is over with. Thanks to everyone for coming.
Monday May 21, 2012 7:02 Bob Wheaton
7:22
Bob Wheaton: 
Further coverage of this can be found at about 8:30 p.m. Monday at www.mlive.com/jackson or in the Tuesday Jackson Citizen Patriot.
Monday May 21, 2012 7:22 Bob Wheaton
7:22
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
The hesitancy to comment publicly is addressed by the ability of people to submit written testimony, including anonymous testimony, in addition to these open forums.
Monday May 21, 2012 7:22 Guest
7:23
Bob Wheaton: 
Thanks again, everyone. Have a good night.
Monday May 21, 2012 7:23 Bob Wheaton
 
Powered by google translate
English  English
简体中文  简体中文
Dansk  Dansk
Deutsch  Deutsch
Español  Español
Français  Français
Italiano  Italiano
日本語  日本語
日本語  한국어
Nederlands  Nederlands
Norsk  Norsk
Português  Português
Русский  Русский
Svenska  Svenska
Close