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Wednesday, February 24,2010

Tri-quality

Two major state LGBT groups to merge

by Neal McNamara

 

The gay rights groups the Triangle Foundation and Lansing-based Michigan Equality will merge after almost a year of discussions into a yet-to-be-named group that leaders promise will provide better service for the state’s lesbian, bi-sexual, gay and transgender population.

Alicia Skillman, executive director of the Detroit-based Triangle Foundation, said that the two groups have been in discussions about the merger since the beginning of last summer. Skillman said that the two groups’ missions are different, but complement each other, and their combination would in the end work toward a goal of equality.


“Michigan Equality was an organization that was very politically active and had a home in Lansing, and at the Triangle Foundation we do lots of victim services and educational work on issues important to the gay community,” she said. “We feel like this is an opportunity to get lots more people involved.”


Skillman said that since 2004’s Proposal 2, which defined marriage as a union only between one man and one woman, Michigan’s gay community has not had a “strategic plan for the community where everyone plays a roll.” With the merger, Skillman said a strategic planning process that would begin to move gay rights forward.


For now, the new organization — Skillman said names for the organization have been brainstormed, but would not divulge any possibilities — will have its headquarters in Detroit, and Skillman will remain as executive director. The new group will maintain a Grand Rapids office, and open a new location in Lansing.


Skillman said boards of both organizations will merge into one large board, and will actually seek to add new members. Lansing attorney Douglas Meeks, the president of Michigan Equality’s board, could not be reached for comment, but the group did release a statement on its Web site.


“Although Michigan Equality and Triangle Foundation have separate histories, we have always shared one common objective: to fight for LGBT equality in Michigan. Together
we are uniquely positioned to influence local and statewide policy,
while also providing victim services, education and outreach as well as
organizing community-building events. We remain dedicated to each and
every one of these objectives now that we are operating as one.”


According
to its Web site, Michigan Equality was formed as a non-partisan group
in 1999 by LGBT activists to advocate for discrimination based on
sexual or gender orientation. The Triangle Foundation mainly deals with
helping LGBT victims of assault, but also does education and outreach
on LGBT issues.


Questioned
about whether the merger was for financial reasons, Skillman pointed
out that a lot of nonprofit organizations are choosing to merge to
weather the economy, but it was not an issue for the two groups.


“We made sure, in looking at the move, that it was not for selfish reasons,” she said.


As
part of introducing the new group to the public, a Skype webcast will
be held, which members will be contacted about through e-mail. Skillman
said a series of town hall-style meetings planned throughout the state,
too, which will focus on building a strategic plan for the new
organization.



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