Destroyed papers lead to pro-gay education

State employee posts first Gay Pride board on state property

By Dawn Wolfe Gutterman

cut/Rik Lapham, a child support specialist, stands next to a gay pride board he set up at work.

DETROIT - One state employee's discouragement over destroyed newspapers has led to what may be the first gay pride news board on State of Michigan property.

Rik Lapham, a child support specialist who has worked for the state for 20 years, became fed up after noticing copies of Between The Lines that he had placed in a work magazine rack were repeatedly thrown away.

Noting that a Black History Month board was displayed in February, Lapham inquired about adding a gay pride board "to bring positive information about gay people to an audience that might not otherwise not have access to it."

Early on, Lapham got the impression that his was the first such project to win approval.

"Every time I asked the question it took two weeks to get an answer," he said.

Lapham eventually learned that gay employees are protected from discrimination under the state of Michigan's Department of Human Services policy, and he was given permission to go ahead with the board.

The board, which contained information including influential gay individuals and statements by Corretta Scott King in support of equal marriage rights, was on display from mid-June through July 5, Lapham said.

"I was very deliberate in picking things that could not be refuted and were non-controversial," Lapham said.

Lapham said that the board was located outside of his district manager's office.

"If you were over 5-foot-6, you could see it from everywhere in the building," Lapham said, adding that the board was located in a high foot-traffic area.

Lapham said that response from his co-workers was mostly positive, and that some even gave him materials to use on the board.

Perhaps best yet, Lapham said that since the board went up, no further copies of BTL have been destroyed.

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