ACLU names 'champions of justice'
The ACLU of Michigan’s first large-scale luncheon in Grand Rapids next week will honor the region’s “champions of justice” and feature a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist speaking about immigration reform.
The luncheon, Protecting the Right to Live, Love and Dream, will feature Jose Antonio Vargas and also honor six members of the West Michigan community.
The event is on June 11 at 11:30 a.m. at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.
The ACLU will honor three people and three oranizations at the event: Rep. Joe Haveman, Richard Roane, Tamesha Means, Herman Miller, Padnos and Steelcase.
“We are thrilled to recognize the efforts of our West Michigan partners,” said Mary Bejian, director of philanthropy, ACLU of Michigan.
Rep. Haveman, R-Holland, is being honored for his work on behalf of juveniles serving life-without-parole sentences in Michigan.
“He continues to work with the ACLU to reform laws and practices that essentially criminalize being poor in Michigan,” Bejian said.
Roane, an attorney with Warner Norcross & Judd in Grand Rapids, is being honored for his ongoing advocacy on behalf of LGBT families and marriage equality.
Roane helped author an important amicus brief that was submitted to the Supreme Court concerning the United States v. Windsor case, the case which resulted in the court striking down section three of the Defense of Marriage Act, paving the way for several gay marriage victories across the country.
Means is an ACLU client who is being honored for her courage. Means will be telling her personal story during the luncheon.
"Ms. Means was 18-weeks pregnant when her water broke," said Rana Elmir, deputy director, ACLU of Michigan. "She went to a Catholic-sponsored hospital, the only one in her county, and was turned away several times without information and without the medical care she was entitled to, because the hospital abides by religious directives."
The experience pushed Means to challenge religious directives with the support of the ACLU of Michigan.
Herman Miller, Padnos and Steelcase are being honored for leading the statewide effort to update Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Law to include protections against job and housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“This statewide effort began quietly in West Michigan two years ago and recently blossomed into a statewide group, the Michigan Competitive Workforce Coalition,” Bejian said. “The leadership of these three corporations has paved the way for many businesses and organizations, such as the Grand Rapids chamber of commerce, to add their voice to the growing chorus calling for an inclusive Michigan."
The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and the Detroit Regional Chamber announced last week that they officially signed on to become members of the Michigan Competitive Workforce Coalition.
Vargas is a journalist with more than a decade of experience writing for some of news organizations across the country.
He is also an undocumented immigrant who lived a double life since he was 16 years old.
“Jose Vargas' address will center around his personal journey out of the shadows as an undocumented immigrant to becoming an activist on the national stage,” Bejian said.“Immigration reform and immigrant rights are issues central to the ACLU’s core mission, particularly in West Michigan. Many of our successes since opening our West Michigan office in December 2010 revolve around the rights of immigrants.”
The ACLU successfully compelled the Michigan Secretary of State to rescind a ban on driver licenses to young immigrants who qualify for the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and it has taken action to stop "unnecessary and abusive treatment" of immigrants by federal and state law enforcement.
Immigration reform is a timely topic not only because of the ACLU’s efforts, but also due to recent steps taken by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to promote Michigan as an immigrant-friendly state.
Ticket information is available online.