LAHR started as a loosely organized group on August 23, 1979. At the time, few LGBT groups existed, making LAHR a cutting-edge phenomenon in Michigan. Meetings began as mostly social gatherings and provided a space for people to discuss LGBT issues. However, the purely social nature quickly shifted as Lansing police began entrapment arrests of gay men at local bars that were known as gathering places for gay men. LAHR took immediate action, researching and compiling a 100-page report that demonstrated how the arrests were illegal. The report was presented at a Lansing City Council meeting. LAHR also helped organize legal assistance for the men who were arrested. Their efforts were largely successful — only two of the more than 30 men who were arrested went to trial, and both were found not guilty. Thus began the advocacy and education sides of the organization.
At its beginning, LAHR had three purposes: to help coordinate gay and lesbian activities in the Lansing area through increasing communication; to organize social groups and events for area gays and lesbians; and to assist in local, state, and national gay/lesbian activism. As part of these efforts, in September 1979, LAHR began publishing its newsletter, which featured articles on the forefront of concerns to the LGBTQ community. The LAHR newsletter published the first article in Michigan about AIDS in 1981, before AIDS was even identified with a name or was well understood by the medical community. In October 1981, LAHR also started the Lansing Lesbian/Gay Hotline as a way of supporting the LGBT community.
Members of LAHR adopted the first official bylaws on October 21, 1980 and elected the first official set of officers on November 11, 1980. LAHR’s application for tax exemption from federal income tax under section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code was approved by the Internal Revenue Service on December 20, 1984.
The first Lansing area community service awards were presented by LAHR at its Annual Meeting on November 7, 1992. This first LAHR awards ceremony recognized the volunteers of the LAHR Hotline and presented community service awards to two local people who contributed greatly to the local lesbian and gay community.
Although some of LAHR’s efforts have shifted focus to meet the needs of today’s community, much of the current work remains rooted in these original pursuits of justice and equality for all LGBTQIA peoples.
The information in this brief history was originally compiled by Bill Beachler, longtime Lansing resident and LAHR member.