Saturday, May 9, 2009

Out of Step on Gay Rights

Grand Rapids Press featured Guest Commentary from HRC’s Trevor Thomas in response to Kent Country GOP Party Chair Joanne Voorhees’ punitive action of rescinding “an invitation for a Republican governor who had expressed support for gay rights to address a Kent County GOP reception.” The following is my response:

For too long, West Michigan has allowed itself to be defined by conservative voices. We, as a community, have come to believe that those views reflect majority opinion. No longer! The last election demonstrated that shift and we can now proudly say that progressive voices are the MAJORITY. 

Look at our own Grand Valley State University -- leading the way in showing West Michigan that an economically vibrant global community values diversity. GVSU has recently demonstrated its commitment to inclusion in the following ways:

• Created a department and hired a Vice President for Equity and Inclusion
• Opened the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Resource Center to support LGBT and allied students, faculty and staff
• Included life partners in "household benefits" for faculty and staff
• Expanded its EEO to included gender identity and expression
• Trained faculty and staff through their Allies & Advocates program on how to effectively support and advocate for the needs of their LGBT students

The voices for equality and justice are no longer the minority in West Michigan. Richard Florida's research on "Cool Cities" names DIVERSITY as a cornerstone for economic viability. In a state that the New York Times names as "ground zero in the economic downturn," we can no longer afford to be anything but inclusive. 

Change has come to West Michigan and will only continue. We ARE the majority now and we own it.

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