The Fight to Protect Reproductive Rights in Michigan Continues!

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, we began our harrowing journey towards getting reproductive rights added to our state constitution in Michigan. The organizers in our State led the most effective campaign to protect these rights in the nation, the results of which were incredible. Our efforts to ensure that reproductive rights make it on the November ballots were successful, thanks to all the hard work that Michiganders put in canvassing and signature collecting. This ballot initiative made history, with 753,759 signatures spanning across every single county in Michigan! We hit the goal necessary to get the issue on the ballot, as well as a generous amount of signatures to act as a buffer in the case of any invalid signatures. This measure will be on your ballot in November, thanks to all of your hard work.

But the fight isn’t over.

Now that the measure has qualified with the necessary signatures it will be on the Midterms ballot in November 2022. If 51% or more of voters vote “yes”, the amendment will be added to the state constitution. It’s up to us to finish what we started! We need to make sure everyone is registered to vote, informed about the initiative, and has a plan for election day this November. Reach out to your friends, family, and neighbors to help us get this vital amendment past the finish line. Everyone’s voice matters right now.

If you would like to register to vote, click here
If you would like to join our Tag Me In initiative and be a part of important work like this, click here

Michigan Youth Lead March Against “Don’t Say Gay” Bill

On Monday Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis signed the controversial “Parental Rights in Education” bill, known to many as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The vague bill provides a wide net for anti-LGBTQ+ action within Florida schools, saying “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” This will not just effect kindergarten through 3rd grade students, but instead will have a chilling effect on all classrooms as teachers try and uphold the nebulous standard of “or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” LGBTQ+ students, on average, come out to their teachers and classmates up to a year before they do so at home. This bill not only makes it harder for teachers to speak on queer topics but also specifically targets this trend, endangering students health and well being by requiring teachers to ‘out’ LGBTQ+ students to their guardians with no consideration for the students wishes or safety.

This bill is part of a national trend that is targeting and bullying LGBTQ+ students through school and government policies. Across the country we are seeing anti-LGBTQ+ groups, political figures, and pundits organize to make the lives of LGBTQ+ people, especially students, more and more difficult. From harassing student athletes to censoring teachers we are seeing hate weaponized in our civic and social institutions. It’s not just happening in Florida and Texas but all across the country, including the state of Michigan. This is why we launched our Tag Me In campaign to get more community members involved in local advocacy.

One of our partner organizations, Prism Detroit, is sponsoring a student led march in solidarity against Florida’s Don’t Say Gay Bill. We are inspired by the student’s desire to stand up for their peer’s rights while also showing their community leaders where they stand. If you are in the Detroit area we strongly encourage you to join them on Friday, April 1st.

If you would like to get involved with what the OutCenter is doing in Southwest Michigan, visit our Tag Me In page to sign up!

Victories in Class Action Cases Mean Social Security Survivor’s Benefits For Same-Sex Partners

Thanks to victories in two cases, Social Security survivor’s benefits will now be open to everyone, including all who suffer harm from discriminatory marriage laws, regardless of whether they have applied in the past.

The outcomes of Thornton v. Commissioner of Social Security and Ely v. Saul have important and positive implications for any surviving spouses or partners who were previously denied or who never applied for Social Security survivor’s benefits, either because they were not able to legally marry or were not married for long enough before their spouse died.

Thorton was a class action case filed on behalf of surviving partners who were unable to marry their partners in Michigan (prior to the marriage equality decision in June 2015) and therefore unable to apply for social security survivor benefits based on their deceased partner’s earnings.

Ely was filed on behalf of surviving spouses who were married less than the required nine-month period to qualify for survivor benefits, due to the fact that they couldn’t legally marry in their state.

In November 2020, federal district courts decided in their favor, but the federal government (under the Trump administration) appealed. Today Social Security has agreed to dismiss its appeals of these decisions.

What this means in a nutshell, is that if you are surviving spouse (age 60 or older, or age 50 with a disability) and your partner or spouse passed away before you were able to legally marry in Michigan (June 2015), and/or less than nine months after marriage equality was available in (March 2016) you may be eligible for survivor benefits based on your partner/spouse’s earnings.

See FAQs on Thorton and Ely below.

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Content Warnings for Netflix’s new doc: “Pray Away” could cause harm to conversion therapy survivors

“Pray Away,” a new documentary about conversion therapy on Netflix, has been getting many glowing reviews — but most of those reviews are not coming from actual survivors of conversion therapy.

In a review from Paste Magazine (one of the few reviews that takes a critical look at the film), Jacob Oller writes, “Pray Away lays bare the evil, the self-loathing people behind [the conversion therapy movement] and—to a lesser extent—those who’ve survived it, while all too briefly nodding towards the powerful and inextricable ties between Christianity, capitalism and the ever-radicalizing political right that keep it alive. There is value in the hindsight found in the film, but it’s more often an off-putting test of our empathetic limits filmed as incuriously as possible.”

Content Warnings for this documentary include:

  • homophobia
  • transphobia 
  • familial rejection
  • conversion therapy testimonials
  • detransitioning testimonials 
  • derogatory language of transitional care 
  • self harm 
  • suicide 
  • mental and psychological abuse 
  • sexual assault 
  • mental illnesses, including depression and PTSD symptons 
  • death realted to AIDs and justification of such 
  • alcohol consumption
  • masturbation mention 

For more information about what survivors of conversion therapy, in particular, may find harmful about this film, click here to read more.

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OutCenter Releases Statement Regarding the Coup Attempt on January 6, 2021

January 7, 2020, Benton Harbor, MI – The OutCenter of Southwest Michigan is appalled by the recent events in the nation’s capital. We are committed to calling the violent mob what it was: a coup led by insurrectionists that had been encouraged by the President of the United States to reject a formal and legitimate practice of certifying the electoral college votes. Our hearts go out to Washington DC’s residents who are now under emergency order until after the inauguration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and Vice-President-elect Kamala D. Harris; our hearts also reach out to the families of the four people who died in the coup attempt yesterday. 

Our friends at Funders for LGBTQ Issues couldn’t have said it any better: “We are shocked but not surprised. We’ve heard the escalation in rhetoric over the past four years of the Trump Administration, rhetoric with roots in the ugliest parts of our national history. Black, indigenous, people of color, immigrants, women, LGBTQ people, and those of us at the intersections have been the targets of these white nationalists and insurrectionists, and for too long the threat against us has not been taken seriously. We are angered by the hypocrisy of law enforcement and the obvious disproportionate criminalization of BIPOC, queer, and trans people. The stark difference in law enforcement response to largely peaceful protests for racial justice compared to the complacency and collusion of law enforcement we witnessed yesterday is appalling.” Read their full press release here.

We echo our Governor’s call to “put the election behind us,” but more importantly, we call on everyone to remember how many people voted for “leaders” who are not devoted to equity, equality of justice. We also ask everyone to continuously recognize that white supremacy is alive, thriving, and extremely dangerous in our country. The United Way of Southwest Michigan’s 21 Day Equity Challenge is a great way to become much more aware of racism within our family and work cultures. Continue your journey with Lake Michigan College’s MLK Celebration week and our Social Justice Reader’s program. It is imperative that we struggle against White Supremacist violence, unfounded conspiracies, and blatant disregard for the lives and the well-being of others in schools, places of business, and towns across this country.

We must keep the work of antiracism in front of us and see very clearly how differently BLM protestors were treated in 2020 compared to how yesterday’s domestic terrorists were treated by law enforcement in our highest halls of justice and diplomacy. 

We call on Michiganders to keep the truth of the election results in front of us and denounce conspiracy theories in family gatherings, online conversations, and wherever they are mentioned. 

On the Passing of Ruth Bader Ginsberg

On behalf of the OutCenter of Southwest Michigan’s Board, staff and many volunteers, we send our many sympathies and condolences to the family of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It would seem she gave it all to survive as long as she could on behalf of so many people.

Our hearts ache with her passing as she was an amazing woman, judge, human, and ally to LGBTQ+ people and our families. We listened and read so intently of her support to and dissent of decisions regarding our right to marry and for protection against employment discrimination.

We also feel she understood the increased negative outcomes on marginalized people and their families and took these things into mighty consideration as she spoke about women’s rights, unconscious bias, and voters’ rights.

Just as buildings in California have a greater need to be earthquake proofed, places, where there is greater racial polarization in voting, have a greater need for prophylactic measures to prevent purposeful race discrimination.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg in 2013 regarding the Voting Rights Act

Her thoughtful consideration of those who were to be impacted most by pending decisions is a testament to her compassion and her opinions. Her precise, complex, and compassionate use of language – a testament to her commitment to justice and to changing hearts and minds. We can only surmise the impacts of her influence among her peers.

While we all must take the time to grieve the passing of this most amazing woman (despite the haste in which things are moving, leaving us precious little time to grieve), we must remember that we, too, have the power to be compassionate, educate others and enact change at the voting booth on behalf of those most vulnerable in our country. 

The OutCenter of Southwest Michigan urges everyone to carry on her work to ensure that our democracy not only lives to see another day, but continues to evolve.

May her memory be the basis of our revolution; our need for immediate and lasting changes – changes that prioritize the most vulnerable, embrace equity, and chart out a path to a return to civility. So today we will grieve and then we will rise again, and carry on her legacy and commitment to the true meaning of “liberty and justice for all.”

Well, I would say that we are not experiencing the best of times; but there’s hope in seeing how the public is reacting to it. There is a reason to hope that we will see a better day.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg in 2017 regarding the Trump Administration

June 2020 SCOTUS Decision

Over 50 years ago, Black and Brown trans women fought back against police brutality and discrimination that too many LGBTQ+ people still face. And now the Supreme Court has ruled that employers can’t fire or otherwise discriminate against LGBTQ+ people in the workplace just because they are LGBTQ+. This will go a long way towards affirming legal protections in education, housing, credit and health care — areas where too many LGBTQ+ people, particularly Black and Brown LGBTQ+, still face discrimination.


We mourn the fact that neither Aimee Stephens, who just died in May, nor Don Zarda, who died in 2014, lived to see this important victory that their struggles paved the way for. One of Aimee’s last wishes was to see the fight to end discrimination continue and we thank her for being a trailblazer and hero.


But there are still critical gaps in our nondiscrimination laws and they impact LGBTQ+ People of Color more so.

Just last week the Trump Administration rolled back section 1557 of the Affordable Cares Act. The new rule will eliminate explicit protections from discrimination based on sex stereotyping and gender identity that have existed under law,thereby sanctioning discrimination against LGBTQ people in health care programs and activities. This is outrageous and will impact the health and well-being of LGBTQ+ people, especially LGBTQ+ people of color! And they did this during a global pandemic and amidst a spike in police brutality against People of Color. The cruelty is beyond measure and the OutCenter of Southwest Michigan is working with local health care systems to ensure they will not sanction discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, especially LGBTQ+ people of color.

What can you do?

  1. No matter your sexual orientation and gender identity, contact you health care providers to let them know where you stand. Then ask them where they stand. Report back to the OutCenter at info@outcenter.org.
  2. Contact your congresswomen/men and let them know where you stand on the rollback. In fact, contact them as many times as possible.
  3. Know where candidates and judges stand on the issue and vote accordingly!

We need Congress to protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in health care, public accommodations, federal programs, and more. That’s why we’re calling on Congress to pass the Equality Act.

And we’re also calling on Michigan lawmakers to amend Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

Help us bring equity home to Southwest Michigan!