100-Day Hunger Strike Begins at Ferndale LGBT Center
"The gay community is under attack in this state," said Affirmations Executive Director David Garcia, who took the first 24-hour hunger strike shift on Monday.
A 100-day hunger strike began in Ferndale on Monday morning aiming to bring light to the issues most affecting LGBT residents in Michigan.
Affirmations in Ferndale is one of eight LGBT community centers in the state taking part in the strike, protesting what they call Michigan’s "extreme anti-equality environment" with a 100-day strike exactly 100 days before the election.
LGBT community center directors and other volunteers will take turns serving 24-hour hunger strike shifts in a makeshift living room set up near the front windows at Affirmations (live video stream available here).
David Garcia, executive director at Affirmations, took the first shift starting at 9 a.m. Monday, going without food for 24 hours while he lived on display in the front window of the center in downtown Ferndale.
"The gay community is under attack in this state," Garcia said Monday afternoon.
In addition to protesting state legislation that restricts LGBT citizens from getting married, adopting children and obtaining partner benefits for public employees, Garcia pointed out legislation like House Bill 5039, which would prohibit municipalities from extending special rights to those not covered by the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act of 1976.
Many municipalities have approved their own ordinances that extend the act's protections to gay and lesbian individuals, however the House bill says municipalities could not adopt such ordinances.
"People aren't aware of it," he said. "That's what this campaign is about."
Garcia said Michigan has "embarrassingly become the Mississippi of the Equal Rights movement when it comes to equality for the gay and transgender community."
More help is needed from straight allies, Garcia said. "This is the civil rights movement of our time. Where is the straight community?"
The Community Centers Network, which consists of eight lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Michigan community centers, is organizing the campaign - called "Hungry 4 Equality."
All 100 of the 24-hour strikes are taking place at Affirmations, Michigan's largest LGBT center.
Sam Ehlert, advocacy intern at Affirmations, said the response to the campaign has been "overwhelming" so far, with phones at the center ringing non-stop on Monday morning with calls from people looking to volunteer and from media outlets across the country.
"We are hoping the community empowers themselves to get involved," she said.
To sign up to strike or volunteer to help in other ways, contact Megh Hollowell at 734-629-6069.