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LGBT organizations and allies pressure Kent County on “Bag a Fag” policy

February 23, 2012

Earlier today several Michigan LGBT groups and allies sent a letter to the Kent County Commission as a follow up to a December action where people addressed the commissioners on the matter of the Sheriff Department’s unjust sting operations that target gay men.

Equality Michigan, The LGBT Network of Western Michigan, Holland is Ready, the Grand Rapids Community Relations Commission and Plymouth UCC all signed onto a letter, which states:

Dear Kent County Commissioners:

As you already know, there has been an effort on the part of the Michigan ACLU to meet with the Kent County Sheriff’s Department (KCSD) about unlawful sting operations.

The ACLU of Michigan believes that the KCSD is unlawfully targeting gay men at parks in Kent County in undercover sting operations that are both unconstitutional and ineffective.
(See link

We, the undersigned organizations, support the position of the ACLU of Michigan. It is our understanding that the ACLU has been trying to meet with the KCSD for more than 6 months, but they refuse to have a face-to-face meeting to discuss the policies and practices of the KCSD regarding this matter.

Our collective organizations represent thousands of residents of Kent County and we are asking you to take immediate action on this matter as lives are being ruined.

We will not rest until this matter is dealt with in a timely fashion, and we have confidence that you will take proper action to assist the ACLU and our organizations to ensure that this kind of discrimination does not occur in the future.

Please respond to this message immediately if you, 1) have questions, and more importantly 2) when you have taken the necessary actions. We await your response.


Grand Rapids Community Relations Commissions

The Lesbian and Gay Community Network of West Michigan

Equality Michigan

Plymouth United Church of Christ

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

Rev. Bill Freeman

Connie Bellows

Thomas J. Ozinga

Colette Seguin Beighley (West Michigan Board Member — Equality Michigan)

Colette Seguin Beighley, a board member of Equality Michigan said of the effort,

If illegal sexual activity is occurring in Kent County Parks (Note: the ACLU Freedom of Information Act revealed NO public complaints), it would be helpful for the Kent County Sheriff’s Department (KCSD) to respond in a way that builds alliances rather than destroys lives.

Last summer when a similar issue arose outside Lansing, Ingham County Sheriff Gene Wriggelsworth reached out to local LGBT organizations and the Michigan Gay Officers Action League (MI-GOAL) to develop a community-based response vs. a law enforcement response. This successful intervention led to a request from the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office (ICSO) for MI-GOAL to provide further training for their officers. As a result, MI-GOAL has created a two-hour training module entitled “Law Enforcement and the LGBT Community” which will be hosted seven times in the next few months by the ICSO Training Division.

This partnership is an example of constructive alliances that create solutions, build community and stop the targeting marginalized populations. 

Already, several commissioners have responded and pledged to contact the Kent County Sheriff’s office. The Western Branch of the ACLU told this writer yesterday that the Sheriff’s office still has not agreed to meet with them regarding this matter, even though they have been requesting a meeting since June of last year.

Those who signed onto the letter are asking for additional support from the community by way of sending Kent County Commission Chairperson Sandi Frost Parrish e-mails ( asking the Commission to take action on behalf of this civil liberties and human rights issue.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 28, 2012 7:13 pm

    I will be running for Kent County Commissioner this year in distric 19. My friend John Stedman will be running for Kent County Sheriff, and my other friend Brian Downs will be running for judge ship. We would love to get together to meet with you and to discuss the issues at hand. You can learn more about me at Please contact me through my facebook to set up a meeting or just give send me an email.

  2. July 29, 2012 10:48 pm

    Here it IS…
    Blessings my friend…


  1. Public Pressure causes Kent County Sheriff’s Department to back off some aspects of their Bag a Fag policy « Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy
  2. Public Hearing on amending the Elliot Larson Act sparsely attended in Grand Rapids « Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

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