Equality Michigan is the result of Michigan’s two leading LGBT organizations merging: the Triangle Foundation and Michigan Equality. Both organizations decided that unity was essential in order to effectively counter the heavily anti-equality political landscape in our state. The following is the history of the two organizations that, together, make Equality Michigan what it is today:
History of the Triangle Foundation
The Triangle Foundation was formed in 1991 in response to the urgent need to help victims of anti-LGBT hate crimes and discrimination. Jeffrey Montgomery became the first Executive Director of the Triangle Foundation after he experienced this need firsthand: his partner was murdered in the city of Detroit and police there refused to investigate the crime.
From 1991 to the mid 2000s Mr. Montgomery could be seen everywhere, from the covers of newspapers to hospital bedsides, aiding victims of anti-LGBT hate crimes while raising public awareness of the effects of anti-LGBT hate crimes and discrimination.
Triangle later added a policy department in order to advocate for pro-equality legislative and policy changes and to counter anti-equality initiatives in the state legislature, in state agencies, and in the governor’s office. Triangle’s first Director of Policy, Sean Kosofsky, became well-known as a powerful force in Michigan’s capital.
The organization took on issues ranging from the establishment of statewide anti-bullying legislation to the campaign to add protections for LGBT individuals to Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, which prohibits bias-based discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations.
Triangle also became a strong voice in Michigan’s larger progressive movement, supporting causes ranging from the campaign for a living wage to the legalization of medical marijuana.
In addition to its work on statewide policy and direct victim assistance, Triangle was also active on the national scene. It was a founding member of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), which collects statistics on anti-LGBT hate crimes and discrimination from the state agencies that directly help victims with these issues.
NCAVP was founded due to the lack of comprehensive information on anti-LGBT hate crimes and discrimination at the national level. By self-compiling the data, the organization was better able to prove to the wider community that hate crimes are a real and constant threat to LGBT people.
Triangle continued to grow, adding events like Motor City Pride, the Michigan Lesbian & Gay ComedyFest and programming for LGBT youth. By the time Triangle and Michigan Equality merged, the Triangle Foundation was one of the most respected names in statewide LGBT advocacy and violence prevention in the country.
History of Michigan Equality
Michigan Equality was formed in 1999 by members of the LGBT communities who saw the need for a bi-partisan organization to end discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Michigan Equality was founded in Lansing in order to have immediate and direct access to both legislators and the governor’s office.
Michigan Equality helped lead successful human rights ballot initiatives in Kalamazoo, Traverse City, Huntington Woods, and Ypsilanti. The organization’s Political Action Committee took an active role in supporting pro-equality candidates for governor and state legislative offices, and the organization was able to attract people from both major political parties as staff and board members alike.