Michiganders might recoil when they see a newly published list from Rolling Stone magazine of the five worst states in the country for LGBT people.
As the magazine writes, "Some of the states on this list will be no-brainers; others might surprise you."
5) Michigan: States like Tennessee and North Dakota present strong cases for inclusion as the last spot on this list. Tennessee is one of the eight "Don't Say Gay" states, as well as ranking high in income inequality and poverty and low in public support for same-sex marriage. Gay Tennesseans are also less likely to know someone like them, as the state has the fourth-smallest percentage of LGBT citizens. It's got nothing on North Dakota, where only 1.7 percent of the population identifies as LGBT, the lowest in the nation.
But we're going with Michigan. While having more gays than those others, the state has a disproportionately high hate crime rate, with one survey ranking Michigan as high as second in the nation. These incidents largely target transgender women of color. In 2013, Detroit resident Coko Williams was fatally shot after her throat had been slashed. The previous year, police found the mutilated torso of 19-year-old Michelle Hillard; Michigan Live reports another woman was "burned so badly she couldn't be identified for 11 days." An attack on a lesbian couple in April further highlighted the inadequacy of the state's laws in prosecuting hate crimes.
This wave of anti-LGBT violence is part of the reason why Detroit was named the most dangerous city in the nation for gay travelers, and the survey also cited the metro area's dwindling number of gay bars and high poverty rate. Dave Garca, the executive director of Affirmations LGBT center, told CBS that the state's legislature isn't helping matters. "It is still legal to fire people in Michigan for being gay, we can not marry, cannot adopt, and the governor signed away domestic partner benefits for LGBT public employees," Garcia said. He argues it has "created an anti-gay environment across the entire state."
Garcia has a point: The Guardian's 2012 survey showed that Michigan has almost no protections for LGBT people at any level, putting it on par with Mississippi. Whereas fellow Midwestern states Ohio and Kentucky at least allow LGBT people limited adoption rights, Michigan law even goes so far as to ban surrogacy. A recently introduced bill hopes to change the tide of Michigan's LGBT politics by championing employment non-discrimination – but only on the grounds of sexual orientation, leaving transgender Michiganders out in the cold. Michigan might be America's mitten, but it's beginning to look a lot like Texas.