FACT SHEET FOR CAMPAIGN REPORTERS: BEST PRACTICES FOR COVERING LGBTQ PEOPLE AND TOPICS

February 27, 2024

GLAAD and Equality Michigan have prepared a fact sheet for reporters and voters in Michigan about LGBTQ people and the issues that will be central to the 2024 election. We’ve also included guidance and best practices for journalists to accurately include LGBTQ people in your campaign coverage.

Equality Michigan’s Director of Advocacy & Civic Engagement Emme Zanotti (she/her) issued the following statement about the importance of factual and informed reporting with regard to Michigan’s LGBTQ community:

“Media institutions in our state bear serious responsibility in not letting politicians spread malicious lies about LGBTQ+ people. Our plea to stop platforming falsehoods and extremism is not rooted in politics, but rather in the principles of truth and decency. If we seek to understand what the consequences of negligence might be, we simply need to open our eyes, because LGBTQ+ Michiganders are already having to live with them.”

In 2023, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed landmark protections into law for the LGBTQ community and people of color, including expansions to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act and reproductive health care access. Michigan is again poised to play a major role in the political makeup of the U.S. Congress, with several seats up for grabs in November, including that of long-term Sen. Debbie Stabenow.

Reporters must take extra care to be accurate and inclusive when reporting on conversations and proposals about marginalized people.

GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis (she/her) explained that “GLAAD and Equality Michigan’s fact sheet will help inform every reporter and LGBTQ voter in Michigan about the stakes of the 2024 election. Media must ensure LGBTQ voices are accurately covered and included in all campaign conversations and coverage of state legislation about our lives. Accurate and inclusive LGBTQ representation in news stories is essential for the safety, freedom and success of every person in Michigan.”

LGBTQ People in Michigan: Context to Know and Report

  • 4% (373,000) of adult Michiganders are LGBTQ, with 27% of them raising children.
  • In 2023, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and her administration made significant progress in protecting and advancing LGBTQ equality:
    • Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA): ELCRA, which became law in 1976, bans discrimination “based upon religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status.” The bill’s expansion, which went into effect in February, adds language to codify protections based upon sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. Other recent protections include “hair texture and protective hairstyles” in the definition of race, as well as “termination of pregnancy” in the definition of sex.
    • LGBTQ Commission: Set into motion by executive order, this advisory body of the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity is charged with keeping the governor and department director apprised of policies impacting Michigan’s LGBTQ population. The commission also explores actions to advance and protect the LGBTQ community’s safety, health and well-being.
    • So-called “conversion therapy”: House Bills 4616 and 4617, signed into law by Governor Whitmer, protect the mental health and well-being of LGBTQ youth by prohibiting licensed practitioners from using this harmful and ineffective practice on minors
    • LGBTQ panic defense: House Bill 4718 crossed over from the House to the Senate. If passed, it would prevent those who carry out violent crimes from using fear of LGBTQ people as a means of defending their actions.
    • Legal name change and accurate IDs: House Bills 53005303 were introduced. If passed, they would codify access to accurate gender markers on IDs and birth certificates; and remove significant barriers and difficulties transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary people face throughout the name change process.
  • Several pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation were also introduced in 2023, targeting the freedom of transgender people to use restrooms (House Bills 4195 and 4510), the freedom to read (House Bill 4136), the ability for transgender students to participate in sports (House Bill 4546), criminalizing health care for transgender youth (House Bills 42574539, and 4540), and expansion of broad religious exemptions (House Bills 4075 and 4345).
  • Michigan’s Supreme Court issued a ruling expanding LGBTQ parents’ custody rights. The ruling in Pueblo v. Haas ensures protections for unmarried same-sex parents in long-term relationships to maintain custody and parenting time in the event that their relationship is dissolved.
  • A new rule that went into effect Jan. 1, 2024 requiring that the state’s courts and the professionals practicing within them use correct pronouns when speaking with or referring to defendants, litigants, attorneys, and others in the courtroom.
  • Michigan is the only state that defines surrogacy contracts as a criminal offense. A package of bills was introduced in 2023, seeking to protect all parties involved in contracted surrogacy. The bills, HB5207-HB5215, passed the State House in November and were referred to the Committee on Civil Rights, Judiciary, and Public Safety in the State Senate.
  • In response to nationwide book ban efforts targeting the LGBTQ community and people of color, the Michigan Library Association (MLA) and a coalition of Michigan residents formed MI Right to Read to protect intellectual freedom, oppose book ban attempts and legislation, and educate about the harmful effects of book bans.
  • The LGBTQ records of Nikki Haley and Donald Trump are documented on the GLAAD Accountability Project.
  • The Biden-Harris administration’s LGBTQ record is documented via GLAAD’s Biden Accountability Tracker.

Best Practices

  • Stories about or that mention LGBTQ people should include LGBTQ voices. 
  • In stories specifically about transgender people, seek and include a transgender person. Equality Michigan and GLAAD can connect you. 
  • Report and correct the record about health care for transgender youthAmerican Academy of Pediatrics: “There is strong consensus among the most prominent medical organizations worldwide that evidence-based, gender-affirming care for transgender children and adolescents is medically necessary and appropriate. It can even be lifesaving. The decision of whether and when to start gender-affirming treatment, which does not necessarily lead to hormone therapy or surgery, is personal and involves careful consideration by each patient and their family.”
  • Prioritize facts, expertise and LGBTQ lived experience over candidate and campaign opinion in your reporting. If a candidate remarks about LGBTQ people, always include facts and context. For example, any discussion of transgender health care must note that this lifesaving and medically necessary care is supported by every major medical association (30+ statements here). Additional resources below.
  • Review and report a candidate’s LGBTQ record and support from anti-LGBTQ+ groups. Ongoing documentation is available on candidates, other public figures, and groups via the GLAAD Accountability Project.
  • Avoid shorthand descriptions of political conversations about LGBTQ people as a “culture war debate.” This dehumanizes marginalized people as a “side” and allows oppressive policies and politicians to escape accountability for creating and fueling the “war.” This language adds to voter apathy by alienating viewers and readers who find vaguely defined “culture wars” irrelevant to their lives. Focus your reporting on the policies, consequences to all voters and to people directly harmed, and the candidates proposing them and their LGBTQ history.
  • Be factual and clear in your language: “(candidate name) has proposed policies restricting health care for transgender people, despite the fact that this medically necessary and lifesaving care is supported by every major medical association.”
  • Do not repeat, or directly and clearly state as false, “groomer” rhetoric. Experts in child abuse prevention have raised alarms that this rhetoric undermines understanding of actual child abuse and endangers innocent people and children.
  • Include greater context: 500+ anti-LGBTQ bills were proposed in state legislatures through 2023. This is a broad scale, coordinated attack against LGBTQ+ people and their visibility, equality and acceptance, via targeting health care, book bans, curriculum and conversation bans, sports bans, bathroom bans.
  • Inform readers and viewers about this larger pattern of LGBTQ animus as you report on individual topics and bills and candidates supporting them. Note also how health care and drag ban bills have been blocked in court as unconstitutional and discriminatory.
  • Report connections between anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, policies and behavior to violence in the real world: the ADL Center on Extremism has documented at least 700 attacks against LGBTQ people through 2023, including murders, assault, harassment, and vandalism.
  • Report how anti-LGBTQ posts on extremist media have been followed by bomb threats against children’s hospitalslibraries and schools, endangering and inconveniencing all students, families and residents in these communities.
  • Report on damaging impacts of anti-LGBTQ legislation and rhetoric. Trevor Project research reported that 86% of transgender and nonbinary youth say that recent debates around anti-trans bills have negatively impacted their mental health.
  • Report connections between anti-LGBTQ extremism and attacks on other freedoms: states proposing bills targeting LGBTQ people have also banned abortion and denied and denigrated fair elections. In addition, several states have passed laws or introduced bills mirroring Florida’s extreme “Don’t say LGBTQ” law. Lawmakers in Nebraska passed a bill both banning health care for transgender youth and abortion after 12 weeks. Texas lawmakers proposed more than 140 anti-LGBTQ bills last year,  passed extreme restrictions on abortion, and enforced draconian laws.

Additional Resources:

GALLUP7.2% of U.S. adults are out as LGBTQ, including 20% of Gen Z, the most out generation in history; a projected 14% of voters will be out as LGBTQ by 2030

GALLUP: record high 71% support for marriage equality

GLAAD84% of Americans support equal rights for LGBTQ people.

GLAAD Media Reference Guideterminology and 20+ topic areas to learn about and accurately report on LGBTQ people

Medical Association Statements Transgender Health Care30+ statements from every major medical association and world health authority, across specialities and patient lifespan, supporting health care for transgender people. Health care for transgender people is mainstream care with widely held consensus of both the medical and scientific communities.

Fact Sheet for Reporters Covering Transgender Health Carewhat to know about transgender health care and how to responsibly include trans voices in your coverage.

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About Equality Michigan:
Equality Michigan (EQMI) has been Michigan’s statewide LGBTQ+ anti-violence and political advocacy organization for over 25 years. EQMI connects victims of individual incidents of bias, discrimination, harassment, and violence, including intimate partner violence, to the support, referral, and navigational services they need to achieve justice. We also partner with LGBTQ+ individuals and organizations to ensure lawmakers and the public are educated on the laws, policies, and regulations needed to achieve and protect LGBTQ+ equality in Michigan.

About GLAAD: GLAAD rewrites the script for LGBTQ acceptance. As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change. GLAAD protects all that has been accomplished and creates a world where everyone can live the life they love. For more information, please visit www.glaad.org or connect with GLAAD on Facebook and Twitter.

Contact: communications@equalitymi.org  |  press@glaad.org

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