Michigan Organization for Human Rights Records
 


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Michigan Organization for Human Rights Records

The materials in this online repository form part of a larger Michigan Organization for Human Rights Records collection held by the Bentley Historical Library. For a more complete index to the materials, please consult the collection's online finding aid.

For questions or more information, please contact the Bentley Historical Library's Division of Reference and Access Services

Abstract:
A coalition of state and local human rights organizations, served as resource, lobbying and educational agent for organizations and individuals engaged in struggle to eliminate all forms of discrimination, gay and lesbian rights became an early focus of MOHR. Records document founding and administration of the organization and numerous, legislative lobbying efforts and other activities.

History:
After a series of meetings of its Steering Committee in Detroit during the Summer of 1977, the Michigan Organization for Human Rights (M.O.H.R.) was founded officially at an organizing conference attended by approximately 50 people and held in Lansing, Michigan, on October 15 and 16, 1977. The mission of the organization was broadly conceived, so that it could serve as a resource for the numerous local, state, and national human rights organizations engaged in the struggle to eliminate discrimination in all forms. Although civil rights for lesbians and gay men were not to be the sole focus of the organization, the provision of educational materials and legal advice concerning issues surrounding sexual orientation was identified from the outset as a primary goal for the organization.

In its early years M.O.H.R. meetings rotated around the state, primarily in the southeast. In September 1978, a staffed office was established in Detroit and an executive director was hired to guide the organization's lobbying, outreach, and fundraising efforts. By 1979, the funding of a staffed office and time commitments required for M.O.H.R. work were causing unforeseen pressures on both the organization and those who directed it. The resulting resignation of the first executive director led to the first in a series of reorganizations. The dependence of M.O.H.R. on financial contributions from its constituent organizations proved untenable and, by the early 1980s, the organization had shifted its primary appeal to individual members.

Although very effective in the political arena, as evidenced by the success of the M.O.H.R.-directed Michigan Privacy Challenge (1988-1990), the organization continued to be plagued with personality conflicts and clashes over its financial commitments and priorities. The latter half of the 1980s were marked by frequent resignations, reform proposals, and dire predictions from factions of the Board of Directors.

The organization met with many successes in its attempts to keep both the public and lawmakers informed about issues of concern to Michigan's lesbian and gay communities. Arguably, M.O.H.R.'s greatest success was the Michigan Privacy Challenge (1988-1990), a series of lawsuits filed by the organization on behalf of individual plaintiffs that challenged the constitutionality of Michigan's sodomy and gross indecency laws. The Wayne County Circuit Court's decision in 1990 supported M.O.H.R.'s position and was not appealed by the State of Michigan.

Other successful M.O.H.R. accomplishments include several court cases involving the rights of lesbian mothers and of persons with AIDS; continuous lobbying of the Michigan legislature for increased funding of AIDS research, education, and care; lobbying several Michigan municipalities for domestic partnership and non-discrimination ordinances; and helping to organize annual Pride Parades in southeastern Michigan. In the area of education, M.O.H.R. maintained a presence on both radio and cable television as a means of informing the public about issues concerning discrimination based on sexual preference and about the prevention and treatment of AIDS.

Despite these successes, the political and interpersonal struggles occurring throughout the 1980s resulted in mistrust and bad feelings toward the organization among its constituents in southeastern Michigan. Combined with the founding of new lesbian and gay male social and political organizations in the area's urban centers, this led to a diminution of M.O.H.R.'s political effectiveness and fundraising capabilities. After one final reorganization attempt, the Michigan Organization for Human Rights disbanded in Spring 1994.

In 1973, WDET-Detroit began airing a weekly radio program, "Gayly Speaking," which continued until 1982. As Detroit's first radio program "by, for, and about gays and gay liberation," the program focused on such topics as coming out, oppression, religion, and gays in film, theater, literature, and music. Programs always included a news and announcement segment and often featured prominent organizations and events, such as Gay Pride Week, Detroit's Gay Community Center, and the Gay Switchboard. In 1982, WDET replaced "Gayly Speaking" with "Another Voice," a new program syndicated by M.O.H.R.

Please note:

Copyright has been transferred to the Regents of the University of Michigan.


Access to digitized sound recordings may be limited to the reading room of the Bentley Historical Library, located on the Ann Arbor campus of the University of Michigan.

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