The Out Center honors allies at 8th annual Lake Effect Pride Event

NOW: The Out Center honors allies at 8th annual Lake Effect Pride Event

BRIDGMAN, Mich. - With Pride Month in full swing, The Out Center hosted its eighth annual Lake Effect Pride Event in Bridgman Friday night. This time, they honored allies making waves in Southwest Michigan schools.

“We talk about the diversity that is southwest Michigan, which includes LGBTQ folks and our families. June is Pride Month, and we’re all about pride tonight. This is our Lake Effect Pride Event, our annual pride event fundraiser, raising really needed money for the organization,” said the Executive Director for The Out Center, Mary Jo Schnell.

Benton Harbor’s ‘The Out Center’ advocates for their LGBTQ community.

“We always say that no advancement in any civil rights strife or movement is done without allies, so to have a month where everyone who’s supportive gets together, shows their true colors, the rainbow colors, really gives us hope,” said The Out Center Board Secretary, Ronda Collier.

Ally Marilyn Haslett is being honored for bringing a Gay Straight Alliance to Brandywine Middle School.

“I kept hearing the word safe. I feel safe. I know that I can come here and be safe,” said Brandywine Middle School counselor, Marilyn Haslett.

In just a couple years, they’ve already made an impact.

“The first year we were able to change the wording in the nondiscrimination clause in our student handbook that did not list sexual orientation or gender identity as one of the things that are not discriminated against in our school, and that was changed,” said Haslett.

While Friday night was all about celebrating those changes, LGBTQ folks still face serious challenges.

“Elliot Larson is our statewide civil rights act, and it does not include protection for LGBTQ people. In the state of Michigan, you can still be fired for being gay. You can be denied housing, lodging, all sorts an array of things, so there’s a senator and a congressman writing to change that act, and we’re all for it,” said Collier.

They say, this month, above all others, no one will dim their light.

“I just feel proud,” said Schnell.

To check out The Out Center’s resources, click here.

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