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New church reaches out to gays, lesbians

Northwest Indiana Times, January 4, 2003

People who felt uncomfortable in traditional church settings have formed a church in Northwest Indiana that will welcome gays and lesbians.
The Rev. Angie Thinnes will lead Metropolitan Community Church Illiana, which has a congregation of about 20, in its first public worship at 11 a.m. Sunday in a meeting room at the First Presbyterian Church in Highland.

Gala Awards

Portage church recognizes individual, group for devotion to human rights

Northwest Indiana Times, October 22, 2018

Metropolitan Community Church Illiana has recognized two local human rights and social justice advocates at its annual Love Knows No Limits Gala recently.
Heath Carter, chairman of the city of Valparaiso Human Relations Council and associate professor of history at Valparaiso University, received the Danny C. Lackey Diversity in Education award.
His work in educating and empowering young people about the value of social justice and activism highlights one of the positive forces in our community for creating change.

Portage council criticized for passing ‘lightweight’ human rights ordinance

Northwest Indiana Times, January, 24, 2018

The Rev. Michael Cooper, of Metropolitan Community Church Illiana, also said he was “disappointed” in the document and criticized the Democrats on the council.
“Democrats have no interest in fixing these problems in our city. Not one of you stood up to fight for a more inclusive Portage,” Cooper said.

Rev Michael

Metropolitan Community Church Illiana hosting Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil Nov. 20

Northwest Indiana Times, November 18, 2017

“While each year the list of names of those murdered grows longer,” said Cooper, “We come together in solidarity with those who still face hate each moment of their lives at work, in our schools and in the places we congregate as community. We shine a light onto the violence, in the hope that we can change that hate into love.”
MCC Illiana is a Christian Church in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities of NWI. 

TDOR 2016

Transgender victims of violence remembered

Northwest Indiana Times, November 21, 2016

The 211 murder victims in the past year from around the world — including 26 in the United States — varied in age and suffered various forms of violent deaths, including being stoned, suffocated, burned, shot, stabbed, beaten and run over by vehicles. What they had in common is that each was transgender and is no longer forgotten as a result of the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance held locally at the Metropolitan Community Church Illiana in Portage.
“We were born this way,” Portage resident Aleckz Bendt told the group of fellow transgender people and their supporters. “There’s nothing wrong with us.”


Pride on display at annual Portage church picnic

Northwest Indiana Times, June 25, 2016

The gay pride flag was flying over the Metropolitan Community Church-Illiana Saturday, as all were welcomed to attend the church’s third annual Pride Picnic.
The Rev. Michael Cooper, MCC-Illiana pastor, said the event was a chance for the LGBT community to come together and celebrate on Pride weekend –when many cities and towns honor the LGBT community with parades and festivals.

VU-sponsored panel discusses same sex marriage

Northwest Indiana Times, April 1, 2016

Rev. Cooper, pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church Illiana in Portage, said he has officiated at gay marriages in Northwest Indiana. He provided a history of the Metropolitan Community Church going back to its founding in October of 1968 in Los Angeles for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Two months after the church was founded, the first public same-sex wedding ceremony in the United States was performed there and made the cover of Time magazine, Cooper said.

MCC Illiana Group

NWI community church celebrates decision for gay marriage

Northwest Indiana Times, June 26, 2015

Friday’s Supreme Court landmark decision that all states must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples was a message Danny Lackey has waited to share from his church pulpit for more than a decade. Lackey, 56, of Griffith, founded the Metropolitan Community Church of Illiana in Portage in 2002, created as a Christian church to welcome members who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, as well as anyone supportive of the idea of “a church for all people.”
“Today’s decision is a reason to celebrate, but it’s also still just another step toward equality for all in every sense and every way,” Lackey said while joined by dozens of fellow members Friday for a celebratory gathering at the church.

Another Valentine’s Day passes for couple:
Same-sex partners use the day to protest marriage equity laws

Northwest Indiana Times, February 15, 2006

It’s that simple, they said as they waited outside the Lake County clerk’s office on Valentine’s Day to apply for a marriage license for the third year in a row.
They waited in line for a few minutes, then listened while the clerk politely informed them that Indiana law did not allow same-sex couples to get a marriage license.
For the third year in a row, a same-sex couple has applied for a marriage license and been turned down.
“We are going to keep it up even if it is only to keep the issue on the front burner,” said the Rev. Angie Thinnes, of the Metropolitan Community Church of Illiana. In 2004, Thinnes and her partner, Cindy Vocat, were the first same-sex couple in recent memory to apply for a license.

Same-sex couples denied marriage license 

Northwest Indiana Times, February 15, 2005

Aurora residents Wendy and Mary Woodruff also applied for a marriage license and were turned away as a group of 10 supporters and fellow members of Hobart-based Metropolitan Community Church Illiana looked on.
The group joined hands in a circle and prayed before leaving the courthouse. The group said it believes same-sex couples are entitled to the same marriage rights as heterosexuals and will continue protesting each year during “Freedom to Marry Week” until state laws are changed.
“We will do this again next year, same time, same place,” said the Rev. Angie Thinnes, the church pastor. “We will keep plugging away.”

Two years, and growing

Northwest Indiana Times, December 18, 2004

About two years ago, fewer than a dozen people gathered at the Metropolitan Community Church Illiana in Highland to worship in the area’s first outreach for gays and lesbians.
Today the congregation includes 46 members and has moved to the Unitarian Church, 497 Main St., Hobart, to accommodate its growing congregation.
The Rev. Angie Thinnes said the mainstream Christian church moved in September because not only was the congregation growing, but so was the First Presbyterian Church in Highland, where members previously held worship services.
“Anytime you have two congregations growing at the same time, it’s great,” Thinnes said. “We have 46 official members now, and about 40 of them are active. It always seems to be a slightly different group each Sunday.”

Seeking well-being:
Parents, gay teens look for places that provide help, understanding

Northwest Indiana Times, June 27, 2005

Mostly adults attend the Metropolitan Community Church Illiana, which meets in Hobart each Sunday, but all are welcome, said the Rev. Angie Thinnes. People from Illinois, Indiana and Michigan attend. The church helps provide another support system for gay people because not enough exist in the community, she said.
She said many people in the area are afraid to admit they are gay.
Laws to protect gay people from harassment, firings or the loss of their homes are insufficient, she said.

Here come the brides

Northwest Indiana Times, July 1, 2004

I don’t know if you remember, but back in February — during Valentine’s Day week — two local women applied for a marriage license at the Lake County government complex. Of course they were turned down. Of course they knew they would be.
Indiana, like the majority of U.S. states, bans same-sex marriages.
So the Griffith couple, together since 1995, did the next best thing: They got married anyway, somewhere besides the Hoosier heartland.

Rev Angie and Cindy

Same-sex partners denied marriage license:
Highland couple expected rejection under state law during public statement

Northwest Indiana Times, February 11, 2004

Angie Thinnes and Cindy Vocat joined hands, smiled at each other and strolled into the county clerk’s office Tuesday morning.
They wanted to get married.
The women, together since 1995, were the first same-sex couple in recent memory to apply for a marriage license in Lake County, and possibly in Indiana, one of 37 states banning same-sex marriages.
The Highland women say they’re among thousands of gay, lesbian and bisexual couples around the world who believe there should be equality under marriage laws.
“This affects us intimately,” said Thinnes, who brought the necessary $18 for a license.

Celebrate National Coming Out Day

Northwest Indiana Times, October 10, 2003

Sexual orientation and gender identity are not choices or lifestyles; they are intrinsic parts of one’s very being. The need to hide, deny and lie about one’s true nature can cause great damage to self-esteem, self- image and self-worth — hence the higher-than-average rates of suicide and substance abuse among lesbian, gay and transgendered people. Closets are indeed sad and lonely places.

The Room Is Crooked: NW Indiana Activist Group Breaks Ground With Racism Panel

Huffington Post, July 31, 2013

At the church entrance, a table with rainbow cloth draped over it was the home of various MCC-related pamphlets, business cards, and a bowl of condoms. (Clearly I attended the wrong churches as a child.)

TDOR 2022

Northwest Indiana trans community remembers lives lost to violence across the globe; ‘I don’t know when I’ll stop being angry’

Post Tribune, December 3, 2022

The glass pillar at the front of Metropolitan Community Church Illiana filled slowly with small cups of pink, blue, purple and white sand until it was full and two smaller glass vessels were placed on either side of it until they, too, began to fill with sand.
The result was a colorful sand sculpture and a visual representation of the more than 380 transgender people killed around the globe from October 2021 through the end of September this year.

Carter, Aliveness Project to be honored for social justice, GLBTQ inclusion efforts

Post Tribune, October 11, 2018

MCC Illiana member Danny Lackey said while the gala is a fundraiser for the church, more importantly they wanted to an event that would acknowledge and honor those “who are doing good work in regards to social justice and GLBTQ issues.”
This year’s honorees are Dr. Heath Carter, Valparaiso Human Rights Commission; and the Aliveness Project of Northwest Indiana, an HIV/AIDS service organization in Merrillville.

Lynn and Veronica

Northwest Indiana celebrates marriage ruling

Post Tribune, November 18, 2017

When Chesterton resident Lyn Judkins found out Friday morning that the U.S. Supreme Court had granted the right for gay marriage nationwide, she began crying.
“It’s unbelievable,” Judkins, of Chesterton, said. “It was a long fight, but we won.”

TDOR 2023

LGBTQ community and its supporters grapple with state’s new ban on gender-affirming care for minors

Post Tribune, April 7, 2023

The Rev. Michael Cooper, pastor at Illiana Metropolitan Community Church in Portage, which holds a Transgender Day of Remembrance memorial service every November to honor people in the transgender community who have been killed around the globe, said his church will continue to offer support services for its transgender members, “no matter what the law says.”
He thinks Indiana can do better than the transgender treatment ban for minors.
“I think it’s detrimental to the lives of many teenagers and going to cause some significant challenges, greater than they’ve faced in the past,” Cooper said, adding the ban limits access to care and treatment. “They’re just looking for reasons to exclude (the LGBTQ+ community) to live the safe and vibrant life of their choice.”

Northwest Indiana applauds Boy Scouts’ transgender decision

Post Tribune, February 3, 2017

“I think it is a great step forward,” said Cooper, the minister to Metropolitan Community Church Illiana, a Christian church in Portage serving the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) communities. “I am very proud of the Boy Scouts. It will make scouting a safer place for many children who want to participate and a place where more children can learn the values of scouting — which includes respect.”