LCC trustees, gay group differ on Council candidates records
By DANIEL STURM
Stepping into the Lansing City Council contest, three Lansing Community
College board members have sent a letter to Lansings gay community
commending Brian Jeffries for his record on gay rights. But leaders
of Lansings gay rights organization dispute their position, saying
Jeffries opponent, Kathy Pelleran, is the true friend of the gay
Pelleran and Jeffries, who are seeking an at-large Council seat in the
Nov. 5 general election, are both LCC trustees.
In an open letter to the gay community sent via e-mail to members of
the Lansing Association for Human Rights, trustees Todd A. Heywood,
Olga Holden and Thomas Rasmusson said Jeffries is a true friend
of the LBGT (lesbian, bi, gay and trangender) community.
In comparison, Pelleran was described as weak on the issue of
protecting LBGT people on the campus of LCC and we believe she will
continue this weak leadership to the City Council if elected.
differs from the position of the associations political action
committee, which unanimously rated Pelleran Positive, whereas
Jeffries received a grade of Somewhat Positive. Moreover,
LAHR-PAC has given Jeffries worst evaluations in the past. According
to LAHR-PACs president, Joseph Marutiak, Jeffries is on
public record as unsupportive of the LBGT community during his
1986 to 1992 term as Ingham County commissioner.
In a letter that was e-mailed to LAHRs listserve, the three college
trustees stated they were shocked to read an evaluation in which Kathy
Pelleran, with no visible history on LBGT issues, was rated above
Mr. Jeffries. We think these ratings are backwards. The ratings,
based on answers to a questionnaire as well as candidates records
on issues, were announced before the August primary election.
Marutiak pointed out that after the primary, LAHR-PAC reviewed the two
candidates records and unanimously concluded that the ratings
should remain the same. LAHR-PAC argues that in Jeffries previous
campaigns for public office, including county commissioner, district
court judge and LCC trustee, he had refused to publicly state support
for LBGT issues and in fact never returned a survey prior to this
most recent one. Only because Jeffries stated support for some
LBGT issues in June 2002 did the Lansing Association for Human Rights
increase his rating from negative to somewhat positive.
LAHR-PAC was particularly critical of Jeffries performance as
a county commissioner. In its official response to the trustees
letter, LAHR-PAC said:There was a much publicized arrest of 42
men at a local rest area. The names and occupations of the arrested
individuals were paraded in front of the media and led to the personal
and professional devastation of several of the individuals. Jeffries
cast a vote opposing a resolution that asked law enforcement official
and the media to reconsider the destructive impact, which they have
by publishing the names of those who had been arrested but not convicted.
three trustees drew a different picture of Jeffries, who chairs the
LCC board. Their open letter states that he had been a very vocal
ally and supporter of the inclusion of gender identity and expression
in LCCs non-discrimination policies. If LCC became the first
community college in Michigan to offer domestic partnerships, it will
be because of Brian Jeffries leadership on the issue, they argued.
On the other hand, they wrote, Ms. Pelleran has shown
she is weak on the issue of protecting LBGT people on the campus of
LCC and we believe she will continue this weak leadership to the City
Council if elected. Early on she expressed opposition to domestic partners
, although we are proud to say that she now says she is supportive of
them. And the legal opinion allowing the administration at LCC to enforce
gender discrimination in place of gender identity and expression is,
in part, the direct result of Ms. Pelleran refusing in March to support
inclusion of gender identity and expression in our non-discrimination
Her opposition was made clear during a Board Dinner and Work Session
when the issue, under the leadership of Brian Jeffries, was brought
forward as friendly amendment to the policies. Her opposition was, and
this is a quote, The administration has not received any complaints
on this issue, so why should we deal with it? When Ms. Pelleran
was informed by Trustee Heywood that several board members had received
complaints and concerns, Ms.Pelleran once again re-iterated her opposition
based on the fact that the administration had not received any complaints.
In an interview, Pelleran declined to comment on the accusation. She
said there was no reason to consider either of the questions the trustees
raised because she had always supported same-sex partner benefits. I
am the only board of trustee member who has worked for universal healthcare
coverage. I support the civil rights ordinance and same-sex partner
benefits, because its to the benefit of the taxpayer that we take
care of our workers and families in our community. The ordinance
to which she referred included gay rights. City Council approved it
in 1995, but voters reversed the decision in the general election.
In its letter to the trustees, LAHR-PAC stated that Pelleran had never
voted against gay rights issues. She has consistently taken a
strong public and private stance in writing in favor of equal rights
for LBGT people.
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