The Phoenix Coffeeshop to Host ACLU LGBT Community Forum

The Phoenix Coffeeshop by Japhy Bartlett

From The Herald-Palladium: BENTON HARBOR — The OutCenter is hosting a prominent attorney for LGBT rights next month.

On May 1 at 6 p.m., Jay Kaplan of the ACLU of Michigan – in partnership with the OutCenter – will hold a free community forum at the Phoenix Coffeeshop.

“The forum is an outstanding opportunity for allies and LGBTQ+ community members to gather and talk about the issues we are facing in our area right now,” OutCenter Board Chair Marci Weber said in a news release.

Discussion will be around the state of LGBT rights in Michigan, including employment and housing discrimination, religious exemption acts, insurance and healthcare for transgender people, and legal challenges LGBT families face – such as adoption.

Weber said there will be plenty of opportunity for community comment, questions and concerns.

The Phoenix Coffeeshop at 124 Water St. in downtown Benton Harbor has donated space for the event and will have coffee and food available for purchase throughout the evening.

“As the ACLU of Michigan’s LGBT Project serves members of the LGBT community throughout the state of Michigan, it’s important that we visit communities throughout Michigan to provide an update on legal and policy issues, as well as hear from constituents regarding both their concerns and needs, in order to ensure that we are addressing them,” Kaplan said.

Kaplan has been a staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan’s LGBT Project since its founding in 2001.

His cases have included undercover sting operations targeting gay men, fighting Michigan’s constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying, defending the validity of second-parent adoptions granted in Michigan, and advocating for a transgender high school student to be able to run for prom court.

Kaplan, a graduate of Wayne State Law School, worked for Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service for 13 years. While at the disability rights agency, he specialized in the areas of special education, vocational rehabilitation and guardianship reform.

He founded the HIV/AIDS Advocacy Program at MPAS, which provides legal services to people living with HIV/AIDS.

Reported by The Herald-Palladium.