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Trans teen parents could face jail: HB6454 introduced in Michigan

The bill provides severe penalties for parents who procure gender transition surgeries or irreversible hormonal procedures for their children

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Michigan State Capitol Building (Photo Credit: State of Michigan)

LANSING – A bill that would criminalize decisions by the parents of transgender teens to allow their progeny gender affirming care was introduced in the Michigan House Tuesday on National Coming Out day by Republican Rep. Ryan Berman.

The bill provides for severe penalties for parents or guardians who procure gender transition surgeries or irreversible hormonal procedures for children under 18.

The measure also defines obtaining gender affirming care for a trans teen as child abuse in the first degree. It proposes lifetime imprisonment for parents of trans youth and also mandates medical detransition for trans teens.

The law also names gender transition procedure, which includes puberty blockers and HRT as being covered in the definition for criminalizing medical transitions for trans youth.

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Michigan

Michigan venue: No same-sex marriages, formal complaint filed

The business owned by Mitch and Kelli VanOverloop said they were “discussing things further with their lawyer”

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The Old Wooden Barn wedding venue in Hudsonville, Michigan. (Photo Credit: The Old Wooden Barn/Facebook)

HUDSONVILLE, Mich. – A wedding venue in a West Michigan farming community has sparked a formal complaint to the Michigan Department of Civil Rights and the Michigan Attorney General’s Office over its policies on same-sex weddings.

The Old Wooden Barn wedding venue in Hudsonville, Mich. states its marriage policy clearly online:

“Because God has ordained marriage and defined it as the covenant relationship between a man, a woman and Himself, the Old Wooden Barn will only recognize marriages between a biological man and a biological woman. Further, the staff of the Old Wooden Barn shall only participate in and host weddings between a man and a woman. We thank you for respecting our Christian family values.”

According to a local media outlet, the Holland Sentinel, the Surfus Foundation, an LGBTQ+ foundation based in Grand Rapids filed a formal complaint with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights and the Michigan Attorney General’s Office last month.

The Sentinel reported that the foundation feels the policy “is a clear violation” of the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act Expansion of 2023 and the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision in Rouch World vs. the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.

In a letter to both parties, signed by Chris Surfus, the foundation requests “enforcement of laws against this and similar businesses across the state of Michigan that choose to create policies that discriminate against the LGBTIQ+ community.”

The Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act was created to eliminate discrimination in employment, housing, public service and the use of public accommodations. In 2023, the law was amended to add sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression as protected classes.

The business owned by Mitch and Kelli VanOverloop told The Sentinel they were “discussing things further with their lawyer.”

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Anti-LGBTQ+ Michigan salon owner faces discrimination charges 

Studio 8 and Geiger could have state licensing certifications revoked based on violation of Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act

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Studio 8 Hair Lab in Traverse City, July 12, 2023. (Photo Credit: Michigan Advance/Lily Guiney)

By Lily Guiney | LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) has issued a charge of discrimination against Studio 8 Hair Lab, the Traverse City salon that drew national attention in July for anti-trans online posts made by its owner, Christine Geiger.

Geiger declared in an initial Facebook post in July that her salon would deny service to transgender and nonbinary people and said that she was protected by “free speech.”

“If a human identifies as anything other than a man/woman please seek services at a local pet groomer,” Geiger wrote in the post. “You are not welcome at this salon.”

Studio 8 Hair Lab Facebook post

The charge reasoned that Michigan law “makes it is unlawful for Studio 8 to print, circulate, post, mail, or otherwise cause to be published” a statement which indicates that the “full and equal enjoyment” of goods or services will be refused because of sex, or that an individual’s patronage is “objectionable, unwelcome, unacceptable, or undesirable” for the same reason.

In a Wednesday morning press conference, MDCR Director John Johnson said that Geiger’s post, and subsequent doubling down on her stances, were in violation of Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA). 

“This is not a complicated case,” Johnson said. “It is not a case that relies on complex legal concepts or that requires expensive or convoluted arguments to explain. Christine Geiger has responsibilities under law as the owner of a business offering services to the public in the state of Michigan.”

The Advance called Geiger for comment at the salon, but the voicemail was full.

MDCR officials said that the charge is one of unlawful advertisement, not free speech. According to the charge, even though Geiger didn’t physically remove someone from her salon based on their gender identity, the posts she made still negatively impacted LGBTQ+ members of the community.

“As a direct and proximate result of Respondent’s unlawful discrimination, Claimants L.M., H.S. and M.H. have suffered the loss of full and equal enjoyment of a public accommodation due to Respondent’s published statements,” the charge read.

MDCR Director of Enforcement Marcellina Trevino said that the department’s investigative process was followed to determine whether there was cause for a charge of discrimination, including trying to facilitate a conciliatory meeting with Geiger. 

“Our staff attorney attempted to set up a meeting with [Geiger] to address the issues in the complaint and to go over the sufficient evidence that we found,” Trevino said. “To our dismay, the respondent refused to participate in conciliation, and therefore our staff attorney drafted a charge which was filed this morning with the Michigan Office of Administrative Hearings and Rules.” 

Geiger filed her own lawsuit on Oct. 25 against the city of Traverse City and the three individuals who submitted complaints to the MDCR, citing her business’s right to “use its talents and the expressive platform they have to celebrate and promote God’s design for male and female.”

While MDCR officials were unable to comment on Geiger’s ongoing lawsuit, Trevino said that the three complainants, two of whom are nonbinary, are protected from certain forms of retaliation under ELCRA. 

“Under the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act, there are protections against retaliation for participating in a protected activity, such as filing an unlawful discrimination complaint with our department,” Trevino said.

The next step for the Studio 8 case will be awaiting a hearing before an administrative law judge. The MDCR’s charge requests that Geiger pay the claimants for emotional distress and “mental anguish” her posts caused. If decided after a hearing, Studio 8 and Geiger could have state licensing certifications revoked based on violation of ELCRA.

MDCR Director of Legal Affairs Bryant Osikowicz said that the charge shouldn’t be misconstrued as an issue of religion or freedom of speech. 

“I will just say that free speech is not absolute,” Osikowicz said. “The classic example from law school is you can’t yell fire in a crowded theater, that type of thing, and we were very specific in this charge. This is not a free speech case. This is a discriminatory advertisement case.”

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Lily Guiney

Lily is a contributor to the Michigan Advance and a former reporting intern. Her coverage areas included state government and politics, including abortion rights and gun violence prevention issues.

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The preceding story was previously published by the Michigan Advance and is republished with permission.

Corporate media aren’t cutting it. The Michigan Advance is a nonprofit outlet featuring hard-hitting reporting on politics and policy and the best progressive commentary in the state.

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Federal lawsuit: Hamtramck’s Pride flag ban is unconstitutional

When the council voted to ban Pride flags in June, conservative Muslims clashed with LGBTQ+ residents with some shouting homophobic slurs

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The protest over Hamtramck banning LGBTQ+ Pride flags on city properties, June 24, 2023. (Photo Credit: Viola Klocko)

By Steve Neavling | HAMTRAMCK, Mich. – A federal lawsuit filed Monday alleges the city of Hamtramck’s Pride flag ban violates free speech rights and numerous other state and federal laws.

The lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Detroit was filed on behalf of former Hamtramck Human Relations Commission members Russ Gordon and Cathy Stackpoole. The Hamtramck residents were fired from the commission in July, a month after the all-Muslim city council unanimously approved a flag “neutrality” ordinance in July.

Although the ban also prohibits religious, ethnic, racial, and political flags, the impetus was the LGBTQ+ Pride flag, which many local Muslims complained was an affront to their religion.

The lawsuit, filed by attorney Marc M. Susselman, argues the ban violates the First Amendment right to free speech and the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

“It is unconstitutional for government to select what speech will be permitted, and what speech will be prohibited, based on the content or viewpoint of the message conveyed by the speech,” the lawsuit states.

Susselman argues that the ban is not neutral because it allows the display of the Prisoners of War flag and other countries’ flags.

The lawsuit seeks to overturn the flag ban and reinstate Gordon and Stackpoole.

In an act of defiance, Gordon and Stackpoole displayed a Pride flag on public property on Joseph Campau Avenue on July 9. Police removed the flag after a councilman complained.

Two days later, the city council unanimously approved a resolution removing Gordon and Stackpoole from the Human Relations Commission.

The lawsuit argues that Gordon and Stackpoole did nothing wrong when they displayed the Pride flag.

 The protest over Hamtramck banning LGBTQ+ Pride flags on city properties, June 24, 2023 (Photo Credit: Viola Klocko)

“In so doing, Gordon was not violating the law,” the lawsuit states. “An unconstitutional Resolution is itself a violation of law, and a citizen who violates an unconstitutional, and therefore unlawful, Resolution cannot be violating the law. Rather, the Councilmen who voted in favor of the unconstitutional Resolution violated the law by violating the Constitution.”

Since the ban, dozens of Pride flags on private property have been vandalized, and residents in the diverse city say they feel alienated and maligned by conservative Muslims who view homosexuality as a sin and peddle false narratives about children being indoctrinated in schools.

More than half of Hamtramck’s residents are believed to be Muslim. In January 2022, Hamtramck became the first city in the U.S. to have an all-Muslim City Council. The mayor, Amer Ghalib, is also Muslim.

Tensions between conservative Muslims and progressive began to simmer in the summer of 2021, when then-Mayor Karen Majewski broke a 3-3 City Council tie to fly a Pride flag outside of City Hall.

A backlash ensued as conservative Muslims began to complain, saying the flag was an affront to their religion. Ghalib, a health care worker and Muslim immigrant from Yemen, made the flag a campaign issue and handily defeated Majewski, a four-term mayor, in November 2021.

When the council voted to ban Pride flags in June, conservative Muslims clashed with LGBTQ+ residents and their allies, with some shouting homophobic slurs. Since then local Muslims have joined forces with conservative Republicans, pledging to create an alliance to oppose LGBTQ+ rights. The coalition is propelled by crackpot ideas that public schools are “grooming” and indoctrinating impressionable children.

This story first ran in the Detroit Metro Times. Follow them: Google News | NewsBreak | Reddit | Instagram | Facebook Twitter

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Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling is an award-winning investigative journalist with the Detroit Metro Times. He operated Motor City Muckraker, an online news site devoted to exposing abuses of power and holding public officials accountable.

Neavling also hosted Muckraker Report on 910AM from September 2017 to July 2018. Before launching Motor City Muckraker, Neavling was a five-year veteran of the Detroit Free Press, covering Detroit’s city hall.

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The preceding story was published by the Michigan Advance and is republished with permission.

Corporate media aren’t cutting it. The Michigan Advance is a nonprofit outlet featuring hard-hitting reporting on politics and policy and the best progressive commentary in the state.

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School board orders LGBTQ+ mural removed from health clinic

“We reluctantly were willing to accept to ensure the children continue to have access to medical and behavioral health care”

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The controversial mural on the wall of the Child and Adolescent Health Center at Grant Middle School. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Child and Adolescent Health Center)

GRANT, Mich. – The battle over a controversial LGBTQ+ affirming mural painted on the wall at the Child and Adolescent Health Center at Grant Middle School climaxed Monday after the Grant Public Schools Board of Education voted to renew the healthcare provider’s contract with the stipulation the mural is removed.

The Muskegon Chronicle reported that Superintendent Brett Zuver said the new contract stipulates that Family Health Care, the provider that operates the Child and Adolescent Health Center, must remove the mural, which was painted by a student who won an art contest, by the end of October.

In a statement Monday, Family Health Care spokesperson Alan Neushwander said the mural highlighted diversity and inclusion, values that are important to the health care provider.

“While it is disappointing that the mural must be removed by the end of October, it’s a compromise we reluctantly were willing to accept to ensure the children of the Grant community continue to have access to medical and behavioral health care,” Neushwander said in the statement, which can be viewed in full here.

Some parents of teenagers in this Western Michigan small town about an hour North of Grand Rapids were extremely angry over the LGBTQ+ affirming mural.

During a school board meeting last year, the anger spilled over into heated arguments with some in the audience saying the transgender flag, a video game character and other symbols painted in the mural were ‘Satanic.’ Prior to the board meeting social media threads on posts critical of the mural had become the mainstay of community discussions around Grant.

The student artist from Grant High School, Evelyn Gonzales, who was responsible for creating the mural maintains the artwork is intended to be inclusive. “I put my art up there to make people feel welcome,” she told WZZM 13, the ABC News affiliate in Grand Rapids in October of 2022.

Gonzales explaining her thinking and creative process did little to calm the enraged parents WZZM 13 reported as after she made her remarks and fled in tears one stood up and angrily said “I feel like she did a really good job finding excuses to defend the things she put on,” said Katelyn Thompson. “None of us are that stupid.”

As for the transgender flag, one parent implied it’s a sickness.

“When adults pretend things that are like real life, it’s a mental illness,” says Danielle Beight. “We need counselors, we need medication that’s going to help bipolar disorder, fix their brains.”

With another saying it is discriminatory against Christian beliefs.

“We and our administration should embrace that and get all of this hate material out of our schools, because it is hate material,” says Nate Thompson.

While some parents called for the mural to be removed or altered, WZZM reported that Grant Public Schools handbook includes a nondiscriminatory policy, saying in part, “any form of discrimination or harassment can be devastating to an individuals academic progress, social relationship and/or personal sense of self-worth.”

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Michigan: 22nd state to ban conversion therapy for LGBTQ+ youth

The ban is part of several LGBTQ+ rights measures considered this term after Democrats have the majority in both chambers

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Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed House Bills 4616 and 4617, introduced by Rep. Felicia Brabec & Rep. Jason Hoskins, into law, officially prohibiting state-licensed providers from engaging in conversion “therapy” with minors. (Photo: Office of the Governor/Facebook)

By Anna Liz Nichols | LANSING, Mich. – A ban on conversion therapy for minors was signed into law in Michigan Wednesday in the latest development of the new Democratic-led state Legislature’s push for LGBTQ+ rights in Michigan.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a news release Wednesday that as the mother of a gay daughter, she is grateful to have the opportunity to make the state a more welcoming place to live for everyone’s children.

“Today, we are banning the horrific practice of conversion therapy in Michigan and ensuring this is a state where you can be who you are,” Whitmer said. “Let’s continue working together to ensure anyone can ‘make it’ in Michigan, expand fundamental freedoms, and fight back against any and all forms of discrimination.”  

The legislation, HB 4616 and HB 4617, effectively bars mental health professionals from seeking to alter a minor’s sexual orientation or gender identity, or risk facing disciplinary action that could result in the loss of their professional licenses.

The legislation does not prohibit the practice of gender-affirming care or support during exploration of gender or sexuality or counseling to prevent unsafe relationship practices.

There is no evidence that conversion therapy works, but there is evidence that shows it is dangerous to children, bill sponsor Rep. Felicia Brabec (D-Pittsfield Twp.), who is also a clinical psychologist, said in the news release from the governor’s office and in her testimony on the House floor in June.

“I am acutely aware that kids need to be free to express themselves without the fear or threat of damaging pseudo-psychology like conversion therapy. With the support of several mental health organizations throughout our state and nation, I can confidently say that this law will help to ensure that therapists like myself continue to do no harm in our practices, while protecting the LGBTQ youth in our state,” Brabec said.

Proponents of banning conversion therapy say legislation like what’s being implemented in Michigan prevents suicide.

When Whitmer signed an executive order in 2021 banning the use of state and federal funds being used for conversion therapy on minors, the Trevor Project, a non-profit group working to create a safer environment for LGBTQ+ kids, applauded the action. The Trevor Project added at the time that a 2020 report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law found that lesbian, gay and bisexual youth who experienced conversion therapy were more than twice as likely to report multiple suicide attempts in the last year than their peers who hadn’t been in conversion therapy.

Erin Knott, executive director of Equality Michigan, which works to reach out and advocate for LGBTQ+ Michiganders, said, “today is a good day” because the ban is a win for Michigan against the “torture” of conversion therapy.

‘The practice is inherently discriminatory, they are cruel, inhumane and degrading treatments that, depending on the severity, physical or mental pain, the suffering inflicted on a victim oftentimes amounts to torture,” Knott said. “This is just one step in terms of mitigating torture and trauma to our kids as well as letting them know or giving them a signal that they are loved and supported and valued as they are, there’s no need to attempt to change them for who they are or how they identify.”

The ban is part of several LGBTQ+ rights measures considered this term after Democrats have the majority in both chambers in the state legislature for the first time in nearly 40 years. The state’s 1976 civil rights laws got an update in March when Whitmer signed into law legislation to extend protections against discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation

Currently, expansions to the state’s hate crime laws, which would add protections for abuses suffered by individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity are making their way through the Legislature.

The legislation signed Wednesday creates penalties for licensed mental health professionals, but doesn’t address unlicensed professionals who perform conversion therapy, including religious leaders providing conversion therapy with no mental health care licensure.

However, Brenden Bell, care manager at Affirmations LGBTQ+ Community Center in Ferndale said in his experience, both being in religious ex-gay support groups in the past and in working with individuals at Affirmations, many conversion therapy efforts by religious organizations are led by licensed mental health professionals. So while the legislation may not have the teeth some advocates may hope for, Bell said the legislation does work towards cultural acceptance of the queer community in Michigan.

“I’m just feeling a sense of relief that at least from a cultural perspective we’re starting to recognize and take seriously how harmful this is to people. … We have a lot more work to do in terms of queer rights…but I feel like this is an important step and I feel relieved that this is something we can all finally agree is unequivocally bad and abusive,” Bell said.

But the ban is not supported unequivocally, as all Republican representatives in the House voted against the bills and all but one Republican senator rejected them in the Senate.

Rep. Nancy De Boer (R-Holland), along with several of her Republican colleagues gave similar no vote explanations, saying the bills limit conversations mental health care providers can have with patients and interfere with family conversations.

“I voted to put families over vague mandates and radical political agendas,” De Boer said. “Parents in consultation with qualified medical professionals are better qualified to make important decisions regarding their child’s development, not politicians in Lansing.” 

Knott said conversion therapy can actually drive a wedge between kids and their parents, dismantling trust.

Rep. Jason Hoskins speaks at a bill signing ceremony for Senate Bill 4, which expands the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act to include protections for the LGBTQ+ community, on March 16, 2023. (Andrew Roth/Michigan Advance)

“Conversion therapy is based on this myth that being LGBTQ+ is caused by bad parenting or childhood abuse,” Knott said. “For the kids that are subjected to conversion therapy, the biggest issue that they experience is shame, self-harm and suicide and no child deserves that kind of trauma. They do not deserve to be a trauma survivor when they’re just a kid.”

Bill sponsor Rep. Jason Hoskins (D-Southfield), said the LGBTQ+ community has endured enough under obstacles to acceptance like conversion therapy.

“Today marks a significant step forward as we bid farewell to a harmful and deceitful practice that has inflicted considerable harm upon the LGBTQ+ community since its inception,” Hoskins said in the news release. “With this legislation, we are creating a safer environment for Michigan’s children. It is a powerful message of love, hope, and acceptance, paving the way for brighter days ahead.” 

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Anna Liz Nichols covers government and statewide issues, including criminal justice, environmental issues, education and domestic and sexual violence. Anna is a former state government reporter for The Associated Press and most recently was a reporter for the Detroit News. Anna is a graduate of Michigan State University.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Michigan Advance and is republished by permission.

Corporate media aren’t cutting it. The Michigan Advance is a nonprofit outlet featuring hard-hitting reporting on politics and policy and the best progressive commentary in the state.

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Salon Owner says that T,Q, & + equals pedophiles- refuses service

Responses to her discriminatory post were universally dismissive and castigated her for her position and ideology

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Michigan Gov. Whitmer speaks to reporters after signing the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act this past March. (Screenshot/YouTube)

TRAVERSE CITY, MI. – A salon and beauty supply business owner in this Lake Michigan port city of 15,559 people in Northern Michigan declared that she will not serve anyone who identifies other than a man or a woman. Instead she caustically noted that those persons should seek the services of a local pet groomer.

In a Facebook post on her since deleted Facebook page, Christine Geiger, who stated that she is the co-owner of Studio 8 Hair Lab in Traverse City wrote:

“If a human identifies as anything other than a man/woman please seek services at a local pet groomer. You are not welcome at this salon. Period.

This is America; free speech. This small business has the right to refuse services. We are not bound to any oaths as realtors are regarding discrimination. My recent airport experience validates this. *smile with teeth*”

Screenshot of Facebook post.

In her Facebook post, Geiger referred to the action taken in March of this year, when Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, which expands basic protections for the LGBTQ community.

Should you request to have a particular pronoun used please note we may simply refer to you as “hey you.” Regardless of MI HB 4744. (kiss my ass Governor Witchmere )

The Michigan Bridge reported that the legislation, dubbed historic by supporters and LGBTQ rights advocates, means that employers won’t be able to fire or refuse to hire a person because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Landlords and real estate agents cannot refuse to rent or sell a property to a person because of their sexual orientation or gender identity under the legislation, and businesses won’t be able to deny goods or services to LGBTQ patrons.

In response to Geiger’s intolerant Facebook post, the Polestar LGBT+ Community Center of Traverse City responded in a statement:

We’re here to support our community, we stand in support of all members of the LGBTQ+ community! 💗🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍⚧️

“In a statement, Traverse City LGBTQ+ organization Polestar said that “Studio 8 Hair Lab’s recent comments comparing members of the queer community to animals are not welcomed in Traverse City, Period.”

“Hate has shown time and time again to be a losing business strategy and we must not allow this blight to take root in our town,” the statement continued. “Statements like the one from Studio 8 undermine the hard work that has been put in to make Traverse City the absolute best that it can be.”

The Studio 8 Hair Lab Facebook page has been deleted, and its Instagram is set to private. In the biography for the business on Instagram, Geiger notes that her business “does not cater to woke ideologies.”

Her Facebook post came days following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling in 303 Creative v. Elenis, that under the First Amendment, a web designer could refuse to make a website for same-sex marriages based on her religious beliefs.

In another Facebook post in the group ‘Overheard in Traverse City‘ a public group with 70.5K members, Geiger expanded her prejudicial viewpoints echoing Q-Anon and far-right ideology.

Christine Geiger:

“I have no issues with LGB. It’s the TQ+ that I’m not going to support. For those that don’t know what the + is for, it’s for MAP (Minor Attracted Person aka: pedophile) This stance was taken to insure that clients have the best experience and I am admitting that since I am not willing to play the pronoun game or cater to requests outside of what I perceive as normal this probably isn’t the best option for that type of client.

Christine Geiger
 

There are over 800 licensed stylists in the County. There are plenty of salons/stylists willing to cater to what I will not. This is a free country and I am not a slave to any narrative.

Conservatives need to acclimate these woke individuals to their new reality. Conservatives have HAD ENOUGH of their ideologies being projected onto us.

We used to “just let them be”. Most of us kept our opinions to ourselves. I mean why look for unnecessary conflict; right? Well the other side used this against us. They mistook our silence for weakness and look where it got us.

So now many of us bark back we speak out and we make it CLEAR where we stand on these issues. They can’t handle it. They aren’t prepared for this. So I am more than willing to take the first rounds of strike backs in hopes that more of you will see this and be inspired to stand up tall and speak your own truths and not simply let them be.”

Responses to her discriminatory post were universally dismissive and castigated her for her position and ideology.

Traverse City is also home to openly gay U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and his husband, Michigan-born Chasten Buttigieg, whose parents live in the city. Additionally, Michigan’s Attorney General, Dana Nessel, is a married Out lesbian.

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Michigan Gov. Whitmer signs statewide LGBTQ protections act

“This bill being signed into law is a beacon of hope and sends a powerful message of acceptance to LGBTQ people across the nation”

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Michigan Gov. Whitmer speaks after signing Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (Screenshot/YouTube)

LANSING – Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act on Thursday, which expands basic protections for the LGBTQ community.

The measure, Senate Bill 4 was sponsored by Out State Senator Jeremy Moss who less than a year previously had been shot down by the Republican majority as he attempted to have a non-binding resolution to recognize “Pride Month” adopted by the Senate.

In her signing remarks, Whitmer noted: “In the words of Detroit native Lizzo, it’s about damn time! Bigotry is bad for business. Come to Michigan, you will be respected and protected under the law.”

“As Equality Michigan celebrates this historic step forward, we are standing on the shoulders of giants. Generations of activists have inspired us to fight for justice and equality for all LGBTQ+ Michiganders, and our community has been working to update our state’s civil rights law to explicitly include sexual orientation, gender identity and expression in every single legislative session since Elliott-Larsen was first adopted,” Erin Knott, Executive Director of Equality Michigan said in a statement.”

“We applaud Governor Whitmer for signing this bill into law, and are humbled by this pro-equality legislature that made amending ELCRA a top priority. Senator Jeremy Moss and Representative Jason Hoskins introduced this legislation and championed it all the way through to the finish line. 

The victory we have today in Michigan is a great one, but it’s also one we don’t take lightly at this moment. Let it not be lost on us that this privilege, however hard-earned, is a unique one that exists amid a nationwide political assault on LGBTQ+ people, especially trans and non-binary youth, and their families. There are over 400 anti-trans bills moving across state legislatures in the US, twice the amount introduced last year.”

“This bill being signed into law is a beacon of hope and sends a powerful message of acceptance to LGBTQ people across the nation. At The Trevor Project, we work every day to protect the lives of LGBTQ youth, and days like today prove that in generations to come, both their legal and lived equality will no longer be fodder for political debate,” said Troy Stevenson, Director of State Advocacy Campaigns for The Trevor Project.

“Our research shows that having at least one accepting adult can reduce the risk of a suicide attempt among LGBTQ young people by 40 percent. We applaud the elected leaders, advocates and Gov. Whitmer for making this a reality, and affirming the dignity and rights of LGBTQ Michiganders by codifying these protections into law.”

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Michigan House passes landmark LGBTQ+ civil rights bill 

Equality Michigan and its predecessors have fought for decades to bring the LGBTQ+ community under the protection of the Act

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Michigan State Capitol (Photo Credit: State of Michigan)

LANSING – The Eliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act, Senate Bill 4, (SB4) has now passed in both the Michigan House Judiciary Committee and House of Representatives today. This bill would expand statewide nondiscrimination protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

The bill now heads to the Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s desk, where it is expected to be signed into law, making it the first time in over three years since any U.S. state has passed similar nondiscrimination protections. 

Once signed, Michigan will become the 22nd state to codify nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people.

In an email, Equality Michigan, the state’s largest LGBTQ+ advocacy group, lauded the action by lawmakers noting:

For our community, today is a day of triumph and a day of relief. The Michigan Legislature is sending a loud and clear bipartisan message: LGBTQ+ people are entitled to the same dignity, rights and protections as all Michiganders.

Equality Michigan and its predecessors have fought for decades to bring the LGBTQ+ community under the protection of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. Generations of courageous community leaders and grassroots organizing created the path forward, and we are proud that today, history has been made.

“It is with great enthusiasm that I celebrate Michigan’s vital step toward equality and justice for all,” said Buzz Thomas, Equality Michigan Chairman and former Senate Democratic Floor Leader.

“Today’s passing of the amendment to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act will help ensure future generations of LGBTQ+ youth and their families, that they will have a fair opportunity to earn a living, feel safe in their communities, and have access to the necessities one needs to build a better life. This is something everyone in our state deserves.”

“Today is a big step for equality and sends a powerful message to LGBTQ+ Michiganders that discrimination has no home in our state. Michigan now joins alongside 21 other states who have sent this same message to their own LGBTQ communities and codified these protections into law,” said Erin Knott (she/her), Executive Director for Equality Michigan. “Today’s victory would not have been possible without years of hard work from generations of courageous leaders. We are witnessing a sea change toward equality, bringing us closer to a future where everyone is treated equally under the law, no matter our gender, the color of our skin, how we worship, or who we love.”

“LGBTQ people — like all people — deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and to live life free from discrimination. By codifying non-discrimination protections into state law, Michigan brings us one step closer to creating a society where LGBTQ young people never have to fear being turned away from a business or told they cannot participate in an activity or enter a public space just because of who they are or who they love,” said Gwen Stembridge (she/her), Advocacy Campaign Manager for The Trevor Project. “We thank and honor the years of hard work of our fellow advocates, community leaders, and partners like Equality Michigan, who led the way to where we are today. Amid the ongoing legislative attacks on LGBTQ communities, especially trans youth, this proactive law is a beacon of hope and optimism.”

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LGBTQ+ affirming school mural sets parents off: “It’s Satanic”

The student creator of the mural maintains the artwork is intended to be inclusive. “I put my art up there to make people feel welcome”

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Los Angeles Blade graphic: From website of Grant Middle School, Grant, Michigan

GRANT, Mi. – Some parents of teenagers in this Western Michigan small town about an hour North of Grand Rapids are extremely angry over an LGBTQ+ affirming mural painted on the wall at the Child and Adolescent Health Center at Grant Middle School.

During a school board meeting last week the anger spilled over into heated arguments with some in the audience saying the transgender flag, a video game character and other symbols painted in the mural were ‘Satanic.’ Prior to the board meeting social media threads on posts critical of the mural had become the mainstay of community discussions around Grant.

The student artist from Grant High School, Evelyn Gonzales, who was responsible for creating the mural maintains the artwork is intended to be inclusive. “I put my art up there to make people feel welcome,” she told WZZM 13, the ABC News affiliate in Grand Rapids.

Gonzales, high school sophomore who won a design competition, created the mural with a bright green background characters including one wearing a blue T-shirt with the colors of the transgender flag. Another student is outfitted in shorts overalls with a rainbow-striped T-shirt that many parents have complained represent the colors of the LGBTQ+ pride flag.

Two other characters are in clothing with colors of the bisexual flag — pink on the top, royal blue on the bottom and an overlapping purple stripe in the middle.

The mural on the wall of the Child and Adolescent Health Center at Grant Middle School.
Graphic courtesy of the Child and Adolescent Health Center

Gonzales added multiple smaller line drawings, including a mask, which some parents have complained is Satan, and a hamsa hand, which is considered a symbol for the hand of God in many cultures.

The mask and hand are both design elements that were not included in the artist’s original contest submission.

During the school board meeting Gonzales defended inclusion of the mask which she told the audience comes from a video game and another symbol she noted is a Hispanic sign of protection. Visibly upset she told the audience and the board “That’s not what I’m a part of- that’s not what I’m trying to put out there.”

According to journalist Jordan Gerblick writing for online video and PC/console gaming magazine ‘gamesradar+’ the mask is from the popular Genshin Impact game. The mask drawn by Gonzales is inspired by Genshin Impact character of Xiao, whose character is notably an immortal defender hired by one of the world’s seven supreme gods to kill demons, so the whole Satan allegation definitely doesn’t track, Gerblick pointed out.

Gonzales explaining her thinking and creative process did little to calm the enraged parents WZZM 13 reported as after she made her remarks and fled in tears one stood up and angrily said “I feel like she did a really good job finding excuses to defend the things she put on,” said Katelyn Thompson. “None of us are that stupid.”

As for the transgender flag, one parent implied it’s a sickness.

“When adults pretend things that are like real life, it’s a mental illness,” says Danielle Beight. “We need counselors, we need medication that’s going to help bipolar disorder, fix their brains.”

With another saying it is discriminatory against Christian beliefs.

“We and our administration should embrace that and get all of this hate material out of our schools, because it is hate material,” says Nate Thompson.

While some parents called for the mural to be removed or altered, WZZM reported that Grant Public Schools handbook includes a nondiscriminatory policy, saying in part, “any form of discrimination or harassment can be devastating to an individuals academic progress, social relationship and/or personal sense of self-worth.”

No decision was made on the future of the mural at Monday’s meeting.

After accusations of a decision being made in a closed door board executive decision after the public meeting, Grant Public Schools Superintendent Brett Zuver released a statement Wednesday:

At Grant Public Schools, our daily charge is to foster a safe, welcoming learning environment where all students can succeed. We are committed to creating a culture of civility, respect, understanding and inclusion as we provide all our students a well-rounded and academically challenging learning experience.

Recently, one of our students painted a mural in the Child and Adolescent Health Center located in the back of Grant Middle School. This student won a contest to brighten up the building and received approval to paint the proposed mural depicting smiling children and the message “Stay Healthy.”

The completed mural includes some features that were not part of the original submission, and at this week’s Board of Education meeting, many community members raised concerns about the mural. This matter was not on the board agenda. What to do moving forward does not require a board vote, no vote was taken, and no final decision was made at that time. 

We understand and recognize there are different opinions regarding the mural. We feel it is of the utmost importance to continue in a thoughtful, respectful, and deliberate manor. At this point, all parties involved are working together and advancing forward to come to a positive, and agreeable, resolution.

We encourage members of our school community who engage in discussions and debate to do so in a respectful, civil manner. We do not condone, and we will not tolerate discrimination, harassment or bullying whether in word, deed or on social media.

Great things are happening at Grant Public Schools. Let’s work together to remain focused on our mission of preparing all our students to succeed.

WZZM: No final decision was made on the future of controversial mural:

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Michigan

School board candidate uses Pride flag as a hated Nazi symbol

“Like my new Pride flag?” candidate Craig Ladyman captioned the now-deleted post on Trump’s Truth Social platform

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

ROCKFORD, Mi. – A candidate for a seat on the Rockford, Michigan school board in this town of approximately 6,000, located ten miles north of Grand Rapids, went onto far-right social media platform Truth Social founded by former President Trump and shared a graphic collage of the Progress Pride flag converted into a Nazi-style swastika.

“Like my new Pride flag?” candidate Craig Ladyman captioned the now-deleted post.

Ladyman has a long and documented social media history of denigrating the LGBTQ+ community. In one post he depicted himself carrying an assault style rifle with the caption; ” I like exercising my Liberty like a drag queen exercises their sexuality.”

Ladyman, who has a business executive profile on LinkedIn as an account executive for ArjoHuntleigh, a global medical technology company, lists himself as an ‘America First’ adherent and opposed emergency measures taken by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, shown in a social media post open carrying an assault-style rifle standing with anti-Whitmer protestors in May of 2020.

In another recent post Ladyman referred to LGBTQ equality rights and community history as “grooming:”

WXMI-TV FOX 17 in Grand Rapids noted that the Nazi Progress Pride Flag image was sharply criticized by members of the Jewish community, LGBTQ people, as well as local leaders, including Rockford Public Schools Superintendent Steven Matthews, who said that the image made him feel “angry.”

“It’s a symbol that I don’t think represents who we are as a community and anybody who would use it I don’t think represents who we are as a community,” Matthews told Fox 17.

Ladyman, whose political ad states that he “will never go along with unconstitutional mandates, medical tyranny or the woke agenda,” didn’t back down when asked to comment on the backlash.

“While I was hoping the outrage would encourage people to do their research into this flag, I would like to state for the record that this image was not created by me,” he said in a written statement to WXMI-TV, after declining to appear on an on-camera interview.

Ladyman — a self-described “pro-God, pro-country and pro-Constitution school board candidate [who] will continue to fight for excellent education in schools without this sexual indoctrination” — credited the image to the British actor and far-right activist Laurence Fox, who first tweeted the altered flag in June 2022.

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