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Posted on Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Ann Arbor LGBT community group joins statewide hunger strike for gay rights

By Amy Biolchini


Volunteers in the "Hungry 4 Equality" strike camp out overnight Monday in the Affirmations office space in Ferndale to bring awareness to LGBT rights issues in Michigan.

Courtesy of Johnny Jenkins, Affirmations programs director

A 100-day hunger strike that kicked off this week in metro Detroit to bring attention to the issue of gay rights in Michigan has brought lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community leaders together from Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, Benton Harbor, Detroit, Midland and Grand Rapids.

Beginning Monday, volunteers for the “Hungry 4 Equality” campaign began taking full 24-hour shifts sitting in a makeshift living space in the office of Affirmations, a community center for LGBT activities in Ferndale.

People walking by the office can learn of the effort through signage the organization has placed in the windows. As of Tuesday, 50 volunteers had signed up for the strike.

Among the people that have volunteered to fast for 24 hours straight include Terence McGinn, president of the board of directors of the Jim Toy Community Center in Ann Arbor.


Terence McGinn

“This is not just a statement being made in Detroit by the folks at Affirmations, but being made by the eight centers across the state,” McGinn said. “It’s important to express our support for those young folks who face an unequal future.”

The center, located on Braun Court, serves the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community in Ann Arbor.

A number of laws in Michigan diminish the rights for same-sex couples and gay individuals: A constitutional amendment prohibits gay couples from marrying or entering a civil union, and recently-enacted law discontinued health care coverage for domestic partners of municipal public employees.

In Michigan municipalities that don't have non-discrimination ordinances that specify LGBT individuals as a protected class, LGBT individuals can be fired for their sexual orientation —as well as denied housing.

House Bill 5039 that has been introduced in the legislature would take this a step further, by prohibiting all state agencies and local units of government from adopting non-discrimination clauses.

Two other bills that have been introduced in the state legislature that would further limit the rights of LGBT individuals:

  • Senate Bill 518 and the corresponding House Bill 5040: Allows public universities and colleges to permit their counseling, social work, or psychology program students to deny counseling and support services to individuals based on their religious beliefs
  • Senate Bill 975 : Would allow health care payers, health facilities, and health providers a right to decline to provide or pay for certain health care services based on ethical, moral, or religious beliefs

“Michigan is regressive when it comes to the rights of LGBT citizens,” McGinn said.

When asked if he was apprehensive about going without food for 24 hours, McGinn said it wouldn't phase him.

“It’s such a small sacrifice to try and make such a large point,” he said.

“The larger goals of the entire 100-day event is to call attention to the fact that in Michigan right now there are a lot of legal restraints for LGBT folks and people don’t always realize this,” said Cassandra Varner, director of communications for Affirmations.


At left, David Garcia, executive director of Affirmations, and Cassandra Varner participate in the hunger strike Monday in Ferndale.

Courtesy of Johnny Jenkins, Affirmations programs director

For Affirmations, organizers are calling it their biggest awareness effort to date.

“This is the biggest thing that we’ve ever done — and it really is attributed to the fact that we’re working with all of the LGBT centers across the state,” Varner said.

Because both are nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organizations, they can’t endorse candidates in the 2012 election.

But they can supply a slew of educational materials — including an "Equality Rights Hall of Shame" that lists six Michigan legislators and officials for their statements and support of legislation that limit the rights of LGBT individuals: Attorney General Bill Schuette, Troy Mayor Janice Daniels, former Senate candidate Gary Glenn and State Reps. David Agema (R-Grandville); Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) and Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills).

Educating voters about the issues facing LGBT individuals in advance of the election hopefully will lead to more conscious voters, Varner said.

The Jim Toy Community Center recently received a $10,000 grant from Michigan Voice to be used to inform voters of gay rights issues in advance of the August and November elections.

McGinn said the grant will be used to pay for food, printed materials and tech support services for volunteers that will be going door-to-door and cold calling people to identify progressive voters in Washtenaw County.

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.


Madeleine Borthwick

Sat, Aug 4, 2012 : 6:46 p.m.

I am saddened by all the criticism I'm reading here regarding the methods, what they're calling it, etc. etc. etc. as well as outright attacks on the GLBT community. I for one support them regardless. Gay or Straight, Love is Great!


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 6:15 a.m.

I'm gay,and somewhat embarrassed,by this"hunger strike"....did 3 year olds come up with this?...absurd.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 2:04 a.m.

I think a lot of people are going to go hungry this year. I just heard that they are planning to boycott gay lesbian books from all the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti Libraries. Kind of sad really to hear this.

Madeleine Borthwick

Sat, Aug 4, 2012 : 6:43 p.m.

jns, no offense but I sure hope you're wrong..


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 5:29 p.m.

Cool. Lines will be shorter. Keep up the strike. Good job.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 3:48 p.m.

Their concerns about the issues are legitimate & agreeable, but their plan is totally impractical. The organizers should be focusing their efforts on campaigns & petitions to make real political change, not over-dramatic grabs for sympathy. No wonder LGBT policies have fallen into regression here in the state... the supporters aren't stepping up to the plate to adequately defend them in the real arena.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 3:08 p.m.

How ridiculous! There is NO reason the BLTG should have the same rights as straight people. Domestic partnerships should have no benefits rights straight or BLTG. Its the BLTG that has all the hate for people with different views as them. Support CHICK-FIL-A!!

Madeleine Borthwick

Sat, Aug 4, 2012 : 6:41 p.m.

Napoleon, the last time I checked the constitution, it included life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. that must apply to EVERYONE, gays included, or it means NOTHING. Isuggest you find a way to rid yourself of all this hatred before it eats you alive.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 5:52 p.m.

BLTG? Sounds like a sandwich.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 3:12 p.m.

And yet YOU are the one showing the hate claiming that homosexuals are somehow inferior and do not deserve the same rights...


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 3:03 p.m.

Please check the picture *caption* - "Hungry" not "Hunger. " Sigh.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 2:49 p.m.

I will go on a hunger strike for the next hour and 11 minutes to show my support.


Fri, Aug 3, 2012 : 2:05 a.m.

Making popcorn, want some? Or not.

rusty shackelford

Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 2:29 p.m.

I strongly agree with their arguments, but this fake "hunger strike" just makes them look ridiculous. If you aren't going to engage in an actual hunger strike, use a different technique. Sit ins, loudly disrupting meetings, etc. Ironic that such a weak tactic would come the gay rights activist community, given the history of very effective protests with ACTUP.

rusty shackelford

Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 4:21 p.m.

The "ridiculousness" here comes from lack of serious commitment, not the technique itself. It doesn't help that the "protests" seem to be taking place exclusively at gay community centers--as if those who frequent such centers don't already agree with their (laudable!) aims.

rusty shackelford

Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 4:19 p.m.

Whatever anonymous internet commenters think of the tactics I presented (and they were just examples off the top of my head, among many other options) they have a history of effectively eliciting sympathy and indeed setting the groundwork for bills one supports. I suppose these people were ridiculous, too?


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 3:52 p.m.

"...this fake 'hunger strike' just makes them look ridiculous ...use a different technique. Sit ins, loudly disrupting meetings, etc." These tactics make you look equally ridiculous. How about campaigning, petitioning, or drafting bills? Those are the real vehicles for legal change.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 1:03 p.m.

I noticed that the Gays, especially the Women are getting a little "Chunky" this will help them get healthier and have more Self Confidence! Now if they adopt Mrs. Obama's "Let's Move" campaign, we could have some of the best looking Gays around! Come Girls & Dudes, "Let's Move" our way to a happier life!


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 6:22 p.m.

Every issue becomes an Obama issue for xmo. Big or little, grey skies or blue, political or religious, manufacturing or service industry, child or adult - it's always Obama.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 1:41 p.m.

Way to get a jab in at Obama, I would expect nothing less


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 1:35 p.m.

No chunky gay comments XMO. You need to apologize...........


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 12:55 p.m.

Reminds me of the time Manute Bol went on a hunger strike, except for one Big Mac a day.

Jeffersonian Liberal

Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 12:18 p.m.

What a joke, these clowns expect to be taken seriously by staging a hunger strike in shifts? If they can't hold an actual fast then the media needs to stop wasting the time and energy to cover it.

Unusual Suspect

Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 12:12 p.m.

Why do you continue to call this a "hunger strike" when it isn't? A hunger strike is when a person goes without food for an indefinite period, sometimes for weeks, perhaps resulting in death. All these people are doing is a short fast, resulting only in a few moments of inconvenience. And hardly that, with their laptops (Mac's no surprise) and cushy, comfortable chair and sofa.


Thu, Aug 2, 2012 : 4:42 p.m.

I dont think there is any "set time" for hunger strikes. I am not sure there are any rules regarding hunger strikes. If they want to call it a hunger strike then I guess its a hunger strike.