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Grand Rapids LGBT History: Community Relations Commission & Inclusion

November 11, 2011

As we have shared with you over the past several weeks the ordinance, which included the language “gender orientation,” was finally adopted in Grand Rapids in 1994.

This ordinance language was first approved by the Grand Rapids Community Relations Commission (CRC) years before the ordinance was adopted in 1994.

However, what is not as widely known is that beginning in 1994, members of The Lesbian and Gay Network of West Michigan began submitting their names to be on the Community Relations Commission in Grand Rapids.

According to a Network News article from 1995, Network Secretary Phil Duran had applied to be a member of the Community Relations Commission in 1994, “but was turned away as the Commission was at that time seeking to replace their departing Jewish representative, without whom their was little religious diversity.”

The article goes on to say:

In 1995, after learning that yet another opening had occurred, and was filled by a White woman whose main attribute was living on the Westside, Duran submitted another application, and sent a copy to Equal Opportunity Officer Ingrid Scott – Weekley. Additionally, he and Network President Mary Banghart made a concerted effort to attend each CRC meeting for the rest of 1995.”

Towards the end of 1995, another member of the CRC stepped down and members of the Network had hoped that their applicants would finally be included on the Commission. However, Ingrid Scott – Weekley decided that the Commission lacked representation from the Native American community and again the LGBT community was overlooked.

So it seems that even though the Community Relations Commission had supported language to protect against discrimination of the LGBT community in the early 1990s, that government body did not practice what it preached.

It is worth noting that the Community Relations Commission in Grand Rapids now has representation from the LGBT community, but like the tactic of The Network in 1995, it might be a useful practice for people to attend those meetings just to have extra eyes on monitoring what the CRC is doing.

It is also important that we are familiar with the stated purpose of the Community Relations Commissions, what the ordinance language actually states and how one can file a complaint if discrimination occurs.

The issue of the battle for an LGBT inclusive ordinance in Grand Rapids is one of the chapters of the People’s History of the LGBTQ Community in Grand Rapids film that will premier next Thursday, November 17 at 6:30PM in the Loosemore Auditorium at the GVSU downtown campus. This event is free and open to everyone.

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