To educate their “straight allies about the extreme anti-equality environment” in Michigan, members and leaders of Michigan’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community are joining forces for a 100-day hunger strike in demonstration for the promotion and protection of equal rights. According to mlive.com leaders will represent LGBT communities in Kalamazoo, Benton Harbor, Detroit, Midland, Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor. David Garcia, executive director of Affirmations in Ferndale will begin the strike today by going without food for 24 hours with help from leaders of the other communities who will take 24-hour food-free shifts at Affirmations. Garcia says:
“One could argue that Michigan is the Mississippi of the civil rights movement when it comes to gay equality. We are constantly behind on many issues, and many people don’t know it.”
The campaign is designed to run into Michigan’s general election and will target a specific legislation which includes a bill signed last year eliminating taxpayer-funded health insurance benefits for domestic partners of municipal employees but not inclusive of employees of public universities or union-represented state employees. But in all, it is still an issue that needs to be faced. The campaign will expose such issues facing LGBT communities throughout Michigan with this strike because as Garcia says “when the majority of the community knows, they get angry.”
Right now same-sex couples are not allowed to marry, adopt or have some of the same rights as straight couples when it comes to benefits and the LGBT community hopes this campaign can bring about change in the same way they won a battle against a bill introduced in October 2011 aimed to overturn gay rights ordinances in place in 18 Michigan cities. Garcia and other LGBT leaders in Michigan are hoping to have some of the same success as states like Massachusetts, one of the states where same-sex marriage is legal and couples are steps closer to having the same domestic rights as straight couples.
In late May, the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was ruled unconstitutional by a federal appeals court in Boston where Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said:
“All Massachusetts couples should be afforded the same rights and protections under the law, and we hope that this decision will be the final step toward ensuring that equality for all.”
The 100-day hunger strike in Michigan is aiming for such support from its own legislators in hopes of more inclusive politics and even to maybe change a few minds.