Community Mourns Loss of LGBT Rights Activist Jeff Montgomery
(Crystal A. Proxmire, July 19, 2016)
Detroit, MI – Jeff Montgomery, LGBT rights activist and longtime Executive Director for Triangle Foundation (now Equality Michigan) has died. Sean Kosofsky, Executive Director of The Tyler Clementi Foundation and former Policy Director for Triangle Foundation, shared the news Tuesday and gave the following statement:
“The world has lost one of its brightest stars. Not just queers. Not just die hard Detroiters. The world. Jeffrey Montgomery lost his lover to an anti-gay homicide. Ignored by police as “just another gay killing” he decided to take matters into his own hands. He helped form the Triangle Foundation, now Michigan Equality. For 16 years he came to work, flipped on the coffee and battled injustice.
“Jeff help build a team of bold and, dare I say, radical staff, board and interns. His brilliant tactical and communications skills helped build Triangle Foundation into a nationally respected institution feared by the right wing and admired by LGBT groups nationally. When other organizations left Detroit he stayed, despite the challenges that came with that. When others didn’t want us to work against police misconduct and sting operations, he insisted that our movement started by fighting cops and we still were fighting cops. He was one of the top experts on anti-LGBT homicides in the US. He helped elect Jennifer Granholm, Gary Peters, Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin. He helped end illegal sting operations in Detroit. He won the first lawsuit against a lawmaker for defamation for saying that gays were pedophiles. He created the first gay welcome center at the Superbowl when it came to Detroit. He took on Jerry Falwell, Pope Benedict, Bill Schuette and countless others. And through all this battle, he had the time to raise a generation of activists in MI unapologetically passionate about ending violence, demanding full equality and sexual freedom and pushing back on racist, xenophobic and sexist forces that wanted to roll Michigan backward.
“His contributions to the world are too many to enumerate. His absence from the professional activism is a gap too huge to explain. I knew the day would come when we would lose Jeff Montgomery. Jeff would absolutely want us to use the occasion of his passing to focus a light on the hate and vitriol coming out of the political right, especially this week in Cleveland. He stood to make the world safer not more divided. We can best honor Jeff by voting, loving and ACTing UP. I love and miss my friend. His fight, our fight, is not over.”
“Under Jeff’s leadership, Triangle Foundation grew from a small band of friends in 1991, to a state-wide political powerhouse that took on issues including hate crimes, the reprehensible “gay panic” defense, police misconduct, and the political rights of the LGBTQ community. He has been honored by leaders and organizations at both the state and national levels for his advocacy and his role in advancing civil and human rights. A powerful visionary, Jeff helped to lead not only an organization for LGBT rights in Michigan, but he was also co-chair of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects, he helped with the founding of the Equality Federation, and contributed to many other components of the overall movement for human rights.
“There’s so much to say,” remarked Jim Lessenberry, Triangle Foundation Board Chairperson for nine years, “but it’s important for people to know he was truly selfless and devoted to political thought and activism with the goal of fairness and compassion. Certainly, he was an advocate of LGBT causes, but he always saw the importance of advocating for our issues by advocating for all oppressed people.”
“Current Board Chairperson for Equality Michigan, Dave Wait, was one of the many people who were inspired by Jeff to take action. “Jeff’s moving remarks at Triangle Foundation events was the reason that I started volunteering for the organization,” said Dave Wait. “As I worked with him he taught me so much about the movement that I became more involved. Thank you Jeff for inspiring so many of us to work for equality for all Michigan citizens.”
“In 2010 Triangle Foundation evolved into Equality Michigan (after merging with the Lansing-based Michigan Equality) and we were fortunate to inherit the massive body of work and the strong foundation that he laid for the continued progress that we are seeing today. Current executive director of Equality Michigan, Stephanie White said, “We mourn his loss and send love to all of his family, including the vast network of chosen family who have loved him from all across the country and here in Michigan. Jeff leaves a giant legacy that won’t be forgotten. We are eternally grateful for all of the work that he’s done for our community.”
Montgomery had been in the process of filming “America You Kill Me,” a documentary about his life and the activism he witnessed over the years. Learn more about that project at www.jeffreymontgomery.org.
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