(WLNS)– In honor of National Coming Out Day on October 11, candidates from right here in Michigan shared their experiences being part of the LGBTQ community during a virtual panel hosted by the Human Rights Campaign Sunday morning.
Rep. Jon Hoadley, Rep. Laurie Pohutsky, and Jody LaMacchia joined several others from across the state, and shared what the day means to them.
“National coming out day to me is an opportunity where folks can be their authentic selves,” Rep. Hoadley said.
“To me it means finding a home, finding a support system,” Rep. Pohutsky said.
“It’s like a moment of solidarity with the community,” LaMacchia said.
The three agreed that while Michigan has come a long way, there’s still work that needs to be done in protecting people in the LGBTQ community.
“Even something as simple as expanding the Elliot Larson Civil Rights Act to make sure that the LGBTQ community in Michigan is covered under that act. They currently aren’t,” Rep. Pohutsky said.
As the 22 year anniversary of Matthew Shepherd’s approaches, Pohutsky reflected on the impact his murder had on her life. On October 7, 1998, Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old student at the University of Wyoming, was brutally attacked and tied to a fence in a field outside of Laramie, Wyoming. He died from those injuries on October 12.
“I was 10 years old and it was the first time that I remembered seeing something like that, seeing a crime like that perpetrated against somebody simply because of who they loved,” Rep. Pohutsky said.
Although Shepherd’s death was tragic, she said it brought the community together, and even more than that– it brought about change like the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which was passed in 2009.
“Because people have come out before, it’s made so many more possibilities available to everyone coming out after,” Rep. Hoadley said.
He and the other panelists added, ‘National Coming Out Day’ is a reminder to keep fighting for change and equality.