Leaders from the gay community gathered to discuss key issues
last night at the Michigan League as part of a forum called
“OUTSpoken.”

Multicultural News
Triangle Foundation Director Sean Kosofsky and Johnny Jenkins, founder of Detroit Black Gay Pride, answer questions at OUTspoken, a forum for LGBT issues held in the Michigan League last night. (EUGENE ROBERTSON/Daily)

“We wanted to organize an event that would encourage the
(lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community and its allies
to become educated about their issues and to become involved in
getting (President George) Bush out of office,” said Ken
Nadolski, co-chair of the Stonewall Democrats.

Nadolski, an LSA senior, said that LGBT politics have been very
active recently, citing last Tuesday’s lobbying success in
the Michigan House of Representatives that contributed to the
defeat of the passage of a state constitutional ban on gay
marriages.

Both state Rep. Chris Kolb (D-Ann Arbor) and Triangle Foundation
Director Sean Kosofsky spoke about their personal experiences
involving Tuesday’s vote in the House.

The proposed constitutional ban, which would have defined
marriage as only existing between a man and a woman, needed a total
of 73 votes to be passed on to the state Senate and eventually
placed on the ballot in November. The plan failed by eight
votes.

After Kolb related stories of other state representatives’
speeches on the House floor, he noted that his statement as the
Legislature’s first openly gay representative was very
different.

“It’s a little more personal when I get up and speak
(in the House) because it’s really about my life, my
partner’s life. … If we decided to marry, would it be
recognized?”

State representatives opposing gay marriages also had a chance
to speak before the vote. According to Kolb, their main point of
support was that “the inclusion of gay marriages threatens
the structure of family, the cornerstone of society.”

Opponents also said that “activist judges” should
not be allowed to judge the fate of the country, but that the
people should vote on the issue of gay marriages.

“I personally disagree with this because if we can vote on
my rights, then we can vote on your rights and your rights and your
rights,” said Kolb, pointing to different audience
members.

Kosofsky talked about his experiences as a lobbyist for the LGBT
cause. He said that LGBT groups were efficient because they began
arguing for votes long before the Michigan Republicans.

“The Republicans did not want to make this a big issue and
they were confident that it would pass but through your work, we
made sure that it failed,” he said.

They were able to convince three Republicans and eight Democrats
from swing districts to vote against the proposed ban, Kosofsky
said.

RC senior Christine Sauvre attended the forum with fellow
members of the gay community. She said she most liked hearing about
the lobbying work described by Kolb and Kosofsky.

She said that even though she was impressed by the large turnout
at the forum, she believes it would have been a good event to
educate the wider campus community.

“I felt that it was particularly focused to the LGBT
community on campus and unfortunately, most of the audience was
queer,” said Sauvre.

Nadolski said other timely events have propelled the debate over
gay rights into mainstream society, including Bush’s
endorsement of a federal constitutional ban on gay marriages.

Kosofsky said that the proposed federal amendment to the
constitution would not be successful. “The federal amendment
is a dead issue. It will never get two-thirds of the vote in each
chamber.”

But he said that Bush’s endorsement is important for LGBT
people and the public at large who are against the president.

“He has absolutely alienated at least one million people
— LGBT people, their friends, family and allies,”
Kosofsky said. “I do believe this could be the issue that
unelects Bush,” he added.

Not all of the panel members spoke about the proposed
constitutional amendments on gay marriage.

Alum Mudhillun MuQaribu from the American Friends Service
Committee asked the audience to first raise their hands if they
were raised in a faith community. About half of the audience raised
their hands.

He then asked if those who had raised their hands were still
part of a faith community, and lastly, whether it was the same
faith they had grown up with. Each time, the number of raised hands
decreased, illustrating MuQaribu’s point.

“As queer people, we can understand that faith can be used
as a claw rather than as an olive branch,” he said.

But he said that of the 4,500 people who signed up to lobby
against the Michigan amendment, five bishops and 100 spiritual
leaders were included.

Other speakers on the panel included Mary Dettloff, spokeswoman
for Gov. Granholm’s office, Johnny Jenkins, founder of
Detroit Black Gay Pride, and Kara Jennings of the American Civil
Liberties Union of Michigan’s LGBT Legal Project.

The panel discussion was followed by a question-and-answer
session with the audience and a dessert reception. The Stonewall
Democrats, the LGBT caucus under the College Democrats umbrella,
sponsored last night’s forum.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *