LANSING – In such a political swing state as Michigan has emerged to be in recent elections, the presence of an out LGBTQ statewide official for the last four years – a first in the state’s history – has been as much of a political anomaly for the region as it’s been a cultural one.
Running for re-election in November after becoming the state’s first LGBTQ candidate to be elected to statewide office, Democratic Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has sought to use her office and identity as an out, married lesbian to advocate for LGBTQ equality.
Prior to her run for office, she had been involved in LGBTQ legal advocacy efforts in the state, having served as co-counsel in the 2014 DeBoer v. Snyder case that briefly ruled Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional in the leadup to the U.S. Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015.
For Nessel, an importance surrounding the representation she has provided to other members of Michigan’s LGBTQ community has remained throughout her first term in office.
“Especially for younger generations, it allows for people to see that you can be an openly gay person and be successful in public life,” Nessel told the Washington Blade. “I have never hid who I was, I made every effort to ensure that people sort of have a little insight into my background and also see my family – [I’m] as proud of my family as any person who’s in an opposite-sex marriage – and to see that you can succeed and you can win a statewide election even in a very purple state as long as you have the right policies and as long as you’re willing to put in the work.”
Defeating then-Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives Tom Leonard, Nessel was elected in 2018 as part of a wave of Democratic ascensions to offices across the nation. She ran, in part, on her experience as a prosecutor and one of the state’s top civil rights lawyers on issues relating to LGBTQ equality.
Since then, she has worked with other top officeholders to advance causes involving statewide civil rights efforts and promises made during her initial campaign. Her partnership with officials including Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has spanned issues ranging from abortion access to defending Michigan election systems in the wake of the 2020 presidential election and subsequent allegations of widespread voter fraud in the state.
Now entering the final months of her re-election campaign against Republican opponent and Kalamazoo attorney Matt DePerno, the attorney general has remained at the epicenter of efforts to establish additional protections for the state’s LGBTQ community. In a case currently pending in the Michigan Supreme Court, Nessel has argued for an interpretation of the language in the state’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act to expand its prohibition on discrimination to include an individual’s sexual orientation and gender identity.
Given the state’s history with regard to progress on LGBTQ rights, the importance of such litigation and the attorney general’s role, Nessel said, remains paramount.
“If you look at Michigan, every right that an LGBTQ person has in this state was won in a court battle because, legislatively, we’ve never passed anything that was helpful to the [LGBTQ] community, only laws that are harmful to the community,” Nessel said.
But following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to overturn the nationwide right to abortion, Nessel says she is also prepared to stand against challenges to Michigan residents’ rights to privacy in other areas including sexual intimacy.
AG Nessel released a statement on #DobbsvJackson:— Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (@MIAttyGen) June 24, 2022
"The overturning of Roe is not just the loss of a right; it is the erosion of our status as equal citizens under the law. As a nation, we trust in our highest court to hold sacred their duty, free from political whim…
"I will continue to fight for a women’s right to choose with the full weight of my office. Michigan residents must continue to fight for reproductive rights at the ballot box in November."— Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (@MIAttyGen) June 24, 2022
Statement in full: https://t.co/oxjCoxO7o8
In the event of the Supreme Court ruling to overturn its 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas that established a nationwide right to same-sex intimacy and privacy regarding consensual sex acts, Nessel said that she would take multiple approaches to ensuring the right – which would affect both same- and opposite-sex couples’ ability to engage in certain private sex acts – remained.
“If Lawrence v. Texas were overturned, it’s not just that I would fight, whether testifying before the legislature or using the bully pulpit to talk about how egregious the thought is of being able to basically prosecute people for something that takes place in the privacy of their own bedroom with another consenting adult and how horrendous that is,” Nessel said. “But then, I myself would refuse to prosecute any sodomy cases.”
With the attorney general’s position as the state’s top law enforcement official, charged with bringing cases in the courts on behalf of the state, critics have characterized such moves as a neglect of duty.
Following the announcement in late June of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs, DePerno released a statement criticizing Nessel’s messaging that she would not prosecute abortion-related cases should the practice once again become criminalized in the state.
“It is deeply troubling that Dana Nessel pledged to not enforce the opinion of the Supreme Court even before their announcement this morning,” DePerno said. “We cannot have an Attorney General who believes she is better than the Supreme Court and the law.”
Pointing to laws rarely tried by county or state prosecutors, such as Michigan’s ban on adultery, Nessel, however, argued that such is a matter of prioritizing her department’s resources to best serve and aid her constituents.
“There are so many laws on the books that it’s your prosecutorial discretion as to whether or not you want to bring those cases,” Nessel said. “To me, my priority is protecting the health, the safety and the welfare of my constituents and prosecuting abortion cases – that’s going to jeopardize the lives of women and not assist them. Prosecuting sodomy cases – I don’t know who I’m benefiting if I were to engage in that.”
In the face of vast legal uncertainty that has now gripped the nation, coupled with a looming election day in November, she said that she intends to continue doing such.
“I expect my office to be very active in protecting LGBTQ rights which is what we’ve done since literally the minute I took office,” Nessel said.
The most recent WDIV/Detroit News polling conducted in early July currently places Nessel with a seven-point lead over DePerno, with almost 17 percent of voters undecided.
LGBTQ+ affirming school mural sets parents off: “It’s Satanic”
The student creator of the mural maintains the artwork is intended to be inclusive. “I put my art up there to make people feel welcome”
GRANT, Mi. – Some parents of teenagers in this Western Michigan small town about an hour North of Grand Rapids are extremely angry over an LGBTQ+ affirming mural painted on the wall at the Child and Adolescent Health Center at Grant Middle School.
During a school board meeting last week the anger spilled over into heated arguments with some in the audience saying the transgender flag, a video game character and other symbols painted in the mural were ‘Satanic.’ Prior to the board meeting social media threads on posts critical of the mural had become the mainstay of community discussions around Grant.
The student artist from Grant High School, Evelyn Gonzales, who was responsible for creating the mural maintains the artwork is intended to be inclusive. “I put my art up there to make people feel welcome,” she told WZZM 13, the ABC News affiliate in Grand Rapids.
Gonzales, high school sophomore who won a design competition, created the mural with a bright green background characters including one wearing a blue T-shirt with the colors of the transgender flag. Another student is outfitted in shorts overalls with a rainbow-striped T-shirt that many parents have complained represent the colors of the LGBTQ+ pride flag.
Two other characters are in clothing with colors of the bisexual flag — pink on the top, royal blue on the bottom and an overlapping purple stripe in the middle.
Gonzales added multiple smaller line drawings, including a mask, which some parents have complained is Satan, and a hamsa hand, which is considered a symbol for the hand of God in many cultures.
The mask and hand are both design elements that were not included in the artist’s original contest submission.
During the school board meeting Gonzales defended inclusion of the mask which she told the audience comes from a video game and another symbol she noted is a Hispanic sign of protection. Visibly upset she told the audience and the board “That’s not what I’m a part of- that’s not what I’m trying to put out there.”
According to journalist Jordan Gerblick writing for online video and PC/console gaming magazine ‘gamesradar+’ the mask is from the popular Genshin Impact game. The mask drawn by Gonzales is inspired by Genshin Impact character of Xiao, whose character is notably an immortal defender hired by one of the world’s seven supreme gods to kill demons, so the whole Satan allegation definitely doesn’t track, Gerblick pointed out.
Gonzales explaining her thinking and creative process did little to calm the enraged parents WZZM 13 reported as after she made her remarks and fled in tears one stood up and angrily said “I feel like she did a really good job finding excuses to defend the things she put on,” said Katelyn Thompson. “None of us are that stupid.”
As for the transgender flag, one parent implied it’s a sickness.
“When adults pretend things that are like real life, it’s a mental illness,” says Danielle Beight. “We need counselors, we need medication that’s going to help bipolar disorder, fix their brains.”
With another saying it is discriminatory against Christian beliefs.
“We and our administration should embrace that and get all of this hate material out of our schools, because it is hate material,” says Nate Thompson.
While some parents called for the mural to be removed or altered, WZZM reported that Grant Public Schools handbook includes a nondiscriminatory policy, saying in part, “any form of discrimination or harassment can be devastating to an individuals academic progress, social relationship and/or personal sense of self-worth.”
No decision was made on the future of the mural at Monday’s meeting.
After accusations of a decision being made in a closed door board executive decision after the public meeting, Grant Public Schools Superintendent Brett Zuver released a statement Wednesday:
At Grant Public Schools, our daily charge is to foster a safe, welcoming learning environment where all students can succeed. We are committed to creating a culture of civility, respect, understanding and inclusion as we provide all our students a well-rounded and academically challenging learning experience.
Recently, one of our students painted a mural in the Child and Adolescent Health Center located in the back of Grant Middle School. This student won a contest to brighten up the building and received approval to paint the proposed mural depicting smiling children and the message “Stay Healthy.”
The completed mural includes some features that were not part of the original submission, and at this week’s Board of Education meeting, many community members raised concerns about the mural. This matter was not on the board agenda. What to do moving forward does not require a board vote, no vote was taken, and no final decision was made at that time.
We understand and recognize there are different opinions regarding the mural. We feel it is of the utmost importance to continue in a thoughtful, respectful, and deliberate manor. At this point, all parties involved are working together and advancing forward to come to a positive, and agreeable, resolution.
We encourage members of our school community who engage in discussions and debate to do so in a respectful, civil manner. We do not condone, and we will not tolerate discrimination, harassment or bullying whether in word, deed or on social media.
Great things are happening at Grant Public Schools. Let’s work together to remain focused on our mission of preparing all our students to succeed.
WZZM: No final decision was made on the future of controversial mural:
Trans teen parents could face jail: HB6454 introduced in Michigan
The bill provides severe penalties for parents who procure gender transition surgeries or irreversible hormonal procedures for their children
LANSING – A bill that would criminalize decisions by the parents of transgender teens to allow their progeny gender affirming care was introduced in the Michigan House Tuesday on National Coming Out day by Republican Rep. Ryan Berman.
The bill provides for severe penalties for parents or guardians who procure gender transition surgeries or irreversible hormonal procedures for children under 18.
The measure also defines obtaining gender affirming care for a trans teen as child abuse in the first degree. It proposes lifetime imprisonment for parents of trans youth and also mandates medical detransition for trans teens.
The law also names gender transition procedure, which includes puberty blockers and HRT as being covered in the definition for criminalizing medical transitions for trans youth.
School board candidate uses Pride flag as a hated Nazi symbol
“Like my new Pride flag?” candidate Craig Ladyman captioned the now-deleted post on Trump’s Truth Social platform
ROCKFORD, Mi. – A candidate for a seat on the Rockford, Michigan school board in this town of approximately 6,000, located ten miles north of Grand Rapids, went onto far-right social media platform Truth Social founded by former President Trump and shared a graphic collage of the Progress Pride flag converted into a Nazi-style swastika.
“Like my new Pride flag?” candidate Craig Ladyman captioned the now-deleted post.
Ladyman has a long and documented social media history of denigrating the LGBTQ+ community. In one post he depicted himself carrying an assault style rifle with the caption; ” I like exercising my Liberty like a drag queen exercises their sexuality.”
Ladyman, who has a business executive profile on LinkedIn as an account executive for ArjoHuntleigh, a global medical technology company, lists himself as an ‘America First’ adherent and opposed emergency measures taken by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, shown in a social media post open carrying an assault-style rifle standing with anti-Whitmer protestors in May of 2020.
In another recent post Ladyman referred to LGBTQ equality rights and community history as “grooming:”
WXMI-TV FOX 17 in Grand Rapids noted that the Nazi Progress Pride Flag image was sharply criticized by members of the Jewish community, LGBTQ people, as well as local leaders, including Rockford Public Schools Superintendent Steven Matthews, who said that the image made him feel “angry.”
“It’s a symbol that I don’t think represents who we are as a community and anybody who would use it I don’t think represents who we are as a community,” Matthews told Fox 17.
Ladyman, whose political ad states that he “will never go along with unconstitutional mandates, medical tyranny or the woke agenda,” didn’t back down when asked to comment on the backlash.
“While I was hoping the outrage would encourage people to do their research into this flag, I would like to state for the record that this image was not created by me,” he said in a written statement to WXMI-TV, after declining to appear on an on-camera interview.
Ladyman — a self-described “pro-God, pro-country and pro-Constitution school board candidate [who] will continue to fight for excellent education in schools without this sexual indoctrination” — credited the image to the British actor and far-right activist Laurence Fox, who first tweeted the altered flag in June 2022.
Michigan library defunded after refusing to censor LGBTQ books
A community voted to close its library rather than have it remain open with books some consider to be “indoctrinating” children
By Ron French | JAMESTOWN TOWNSHIP, Mi. – What started as a fight over an LGBTQ-themed graphic novel may end with the closure of a west Michigan public library.
Voters in Jamestown Township, a politically conservative community in Ottawa County, rejected renewal Tuesday of a millage that would support the Patmos Library. That vote guts the library’s operating budget in 2023 — 84 percent of the library’s $245,000 budget comes from property taxes collected through a millage.
Without a millage, the library is likely to run out of money sometime late next year, said Larry Walton, library board president.
“I wasn’t expecting anything like this,” Walton told Bridge Michigan Tuesday. “The library is the center of the community. For individuals to be short sighted to close that down over opposing LGBTQ is very disappointing.”
There have been protests at other Michigan public libraries and at school board meetings about books with LGBTQ themes. But Tuesday may be the first time a community voted, in effect, to close its library rather than have it remain open with books some consider to be “indoctrinating” children.
Continue reading at Bridge Michigan: (LINK)
Ryan Wieber, President of the Michigan Library Association, released a statement Friday regarding the situation at Patmos Library:
The Michigan Library Association stands in solidarity with the Patmos Library Board of Trustees on the decision to retain a small collection of LGBTQIA+ materials on their library shelves. We are equally disheartened to learn that continued funding for the library was defeated on the August primary ballot because the library would not remove these materials.
We recognize that individuals have the right and responsibility to make decisions about what materials are suitable for themselves and their own families. We also stand united with the majority of the Patmos Library Board, and with librarians across the nation in upholding our Constitutional protections. The freedom to read is guaranteed by the Constitution. No one has the right to make rules restricting what other people read or to make decisions for other families. Freedom only exists when individuals can make their own choices. When a book is banned by those who want to censor voices they don’t agree with, our democracy itself is threatened.
Of utmost importance to any public library is curating collections that allow every citizen, young and old alike, to see themselves in the books and resources their library provides, and choosing a broad range of subject matter that reflects diverse experiences. It is important to emphasize that the presence of any reading materials in a library collection does not imply endorsement of the ideas expressed in those materials. The library is simply doing its job to provide a wide variety of views and expressions—if the library “endorses” anything, it is citizens’ right to access a broad selection of age-appropriate materials. This is a core tenant of librarianship – to provide for the interests of all, and to do so without bias.
Of the 50 library millages across Michigan that were on the August primary ballot, five were voted down, but only one was voted down due to extremist rhetoric and opposition concerning the small collection of materials with LGBTQIA+ themes on the shelves of the Patmos Library.
And we all know that there are extreme consequences to be addressed for those that voted “NO”.
How will the community fare, when and if, the library closes its doors because its funding was not approved? Economically? Socially? Educationally? The Patmos Library serves many purposes – simultaneously a community center, voting precinct, history center, a place to read, gather, socialize, study and learn – a beautiful cultural institution in the heart of Hudsonville. The day will come when there is no access to WiFi. No access to employment assistance. No access to books, materials and eContent. No access to veteran’s benefits. No access to storytime. No access to afterschool, weekend and evening programs. No access to lifelong learning opportunities. NO ACCESS at all because the Patmos Library will shut and lock their doors and will no longer serve the needs of anyone, including those that voted no.
It is the responsibility of libraries throughout Michigan and our Nation to guarantee and facilitate access to all expressions of knowledge and intellectual activity, including those that some individuals in our society may consider to be unconventional, unpopular, or unacceptable. We stand with you as you uphold the first amendment rights that are enshrined in the Constitution by serving the entire population, including those who see value in material that others may find objectionable.
The Michigan Library Association will help Patmos Library in any way they deem needed to address this challenge.
There is a GoFundMe campaign established by local Jamestown resident, Jesse Dillman, who is raising funds to sustain library operations. As of Friday, August 5, 2022 the campaign had raised $12,571 of its $245,000 goal.
The link to the GoFundMe is here: (LINK)
The preceding excerpt was previously published by Bridge Michigan and is republished by permission. Photograph of Patmos Library sign by Ron French for Bridge Michigan republished by permission.
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Michigan Court of Appeals overturns decision regarding abortion law
The appeals court ruling paves the way for county prosecutors to file criminal charges against abortion providers under the 1931 state law
LANSING – In a ruling issued Monday, the Michigan Court of Appeals overturned a lower court decision regarding the state’s dormant 1931 state law that criminalizes medical providers performing abortion procedures.
According to Michigan Public Radio, the appeals court ruling paves the way for county prosecutors to file criminal charges against abortion providers under the 1931 state law. That law would ban all abortions in Michigan except to save the life of a pregnant person. But the decision does not take effect for 21 days, to allow time for parties to file an appeal.
Planned Parenthood of Michigan responded to today’s ruling in a statement:
“The injunction barring enforcement of Michigan’s 1931 criminal abortion ban remains in effect and applies to all Michigan county prosecutors. Under Michigan court rule MCR 7.215(F)(1)(a), “the Court of Appeals judgment is effective after the expiration of the time for filing an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, or, if such an application is filed, after the disposition of the case by the Supreme Court.” This means that the Michigan Court of Appeals ruling cannot take effect during the 21 day appeal window. Planned Parenthood of Michigan will continue to evaluate our legal options and remains committed to protecting abortion access in Michigan. Planned Parenthood of Michigan will continue to provide abortion services in accordance with the law. PPMI patients can keep their appointments and our doors remain open.”
The Michigan Court of Appeals has overturned a lower court decision regarding the state’s dormant abortion law.— Michigan Radio (@MichiganRadio) August 1, 2022
The appeals court ruling paves the way for county prosecutors to file criminal charges against abortion providers under the 1931 state law.https://t.co/FxC9euJ5xi
The Detroit Free-Press reported that the ruling means the 1931 law banning all abortions except those done to protect the life of a pregnant person essentially takes effect immediately, said David Kallman, an attorney for Great Lakes Justice Center, a conservative organization representing several Michigan prosecutors who challenged the injunction.
“We’re ecstatic. It’s wonderful. That’s exactly what we’ve been saying all along,” Kallman said Monday morning in a phone interview.
Michigan’s high court rules existing law bans anti-LGBTQ discrimination
The lawsuit came in the wake of the companies’ refusal to serve transgender customers and those in same-sex relationships
LANSING – In a 5-2 decision on Thursday, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in Rouch World, LLC v Department of Civil Rights that the state’s 1976 Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
The case, brought by the Michigan companies Rouch World and Uprooted Electrolysis, sought to challenge the state’s Civil Rights Commission for its interpretation of the law that classified sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes. The lawsuit came in the wake of the companies’ refusal to serve transgender customers and those in same-sex relationships, prompting customer complaints that resulted in Civil Rights Commission investigations.
Given the arguments of the case, the Court was asked to determine whether the law’s inclusion of the word “sex” as a protected category applied to instances of discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community.
Republican Justice Elizabeth Clement joined Democratic justices Richard Bernstein, Megan Cavanagh and Elizabeth Welch – as well as Democratic Chief Justice Bridget McCormack – in the majority opinion.
“Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation necessarily constitutes discrimination because of sex,” Clement wrote in the Court’s majority opinion. “Accordingly, the denial of ‘the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of a place of public accommodation or public service’ on the basis of sexual orientation constitutes discrimination ‘because of…sex’ and, therefore, constitutes a violation of the [Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act] under MCL 37.2302(a).”
In his dissent alongside fellow Republican Justice David Viviano, Brian Zahra asserted his belief that the Court had overreached in its ruling.
“This Court’s function is to interpret and apply the laws that the Legislature writes,” Justice Zahra wrote. “That is not what the majority opinion has done.”
While the ruling was not at odds with his own views on the matter, Zahra wrote, the Court’s mandate was not observed by its majority in the case.
“Though I take no issue with today’s outcome, because I do not recognize the manner in which it has been achieved by the majority opinion to be faithful to the judicial role, I dissent,” Zahra wrote.
Similar arguments of overreach were made by the plaintiffs in the case who argued that the state legislature, not the Civil Rights Commission, held sole power to expand the law.
“The Legislature has declined to add ‘sexual orientation’ numerous times over the nearly 50 years since the [Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act] was enacted by the Legislature,” the plaintiff companies wrote in their case brief last November. “Further, the Legislature explicitly rejected adding ‘sexual orientation’ to the [Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act]. The unelected [Michigan Civil Rights Commission] is not the Legislature and is not politically accountable to the people.”
Previous, bipartisan efforts have been made by state lawmakers to codify sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes under the law. Such efforts, however, have failed to gain requisite traction in the state’s Republican-controlled legislature.
In writing the majority opinion, Justice Cavanagh rejected such narratives as pertinent to the duty of the Court.
“Should the Legislature disapprove of an application of a statute’s enacted language, the Legislature remains free to amend the statute,” Cavanagh wrote. “This Court, however, is bound by the language that the Legislature has enacted, not what the parties or amici believe the Legislature should have enacted or what any individual representative believed was enacted.”
Following its announcement Thursday afternoon, LGBTQ advocates in the state heralded the decision as a victory for equality in the state.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, who had argued the case before the Court in conjunction with entities including the American Civil Liberties Union, released a statement following the ruling.
“Now, more than ever, it is critical that those of us elected to public office work to preserve and protect the rights of all residents,” Nessel said. “Today’s ruling confirms what we have long known – that the protections afforded by the [Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act] cover all Michiganders.”
The decision garnered similar praise from other top state officials, including Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist.
“As a mom, a governor, and proud ally of the community, I am so grateful for this ruling,” Whitmer said in a statement. “It will save lives, protect families, and help ensure that every Michigander is treated with dignity and respect by law.”
With the Court’s expansion of the law’s protections, members of Michigan’s LGBTQ community are now shielded from discrimination in all areas outlined in the law’s language.
Such includes protection in sectors including employment, housing, education and public accommodations.
“For too long, LGBTQ+ Michiganders had been left out of our state’s civil rights protections,” Whitmer said. “No longer. Because of this ruling, nobody can legally be fired from their job or evicted from their home because of who they love.”
Michigan GOP no LGBTQ+ Pride resolution, demand ‘lifestyle’ disclaimer
The Majority leader “made suggestions” for amendments to make the resolution “more reflective of the diversity of opinions in the Senate.”
LANSING – A Michigan Senate Pride Month resolution was rejected Tuesday by Republican lawmakers who were demanding a disclaimer referring to LGBTQ+ people as a lifestyle choice. The language of the resolution was identical to the same format used in 2021, which the House and Senate approved the resolution last year, a first for the GOP-led Legislature.
This year however the resolution which would have recognized June 2022 as “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month,” was derailed by Republican State Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey. In a statement provided to Bridge Michigan, the Majority leader said that he “made suggestions” for amendments to make the resolution “more reflective of the diversity of opinions in the Senate.”
The resolution was pulled and sent to the Senate Government Operations Committee that Shirkey chairs. The resolution’s chief sponsor, state Sen. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield accused the Republican leadership of being regressive throwing Pride Month back into the trash heap.”
Shirkey wanted to replace language specific to the LGBT community with references to valuing “all” Michigan residents, and he proposed removing language about the government’s “low and insufficient” response to the HIV/AIDS crisis and civil rights, Moss told Bridge Michigan.
But most concerning to him, Moss said, was a disclaimer Shirkey wanted to add: “Though not every citizen in Michigan agrees with the lifestyle of the LGBT community, it is agreed that every life is special, precious, unique and loved by the the creator, and each person is created in God’s image.”
Moss refused the addition, calling it a “negative” statement about LGBTQ residents thatimplies being gay is a choice. It would be like amending a Jewish American Heritage Month resolution to note that “not everyone in the state of Michigan supports the Jewish lifestyle,” added Moss, who is gay and Jewish.
“I will not be gaslit that this is my problem,” Moss said of the resolution’s failure to pass the Senate on Tuesday. “I did not change the stakes. I did not move the goalposts. They did.”
GOP lawmaker funds congressional run with transphobic shock tactics
Text-message campaign was hosted by GOP fundraising platform WinRed, which is under investigation for violating consumer protection laws
LANSING, Mi. – Republican State Senator Tom Barrett sent text messages soliciting donations to his Congressional campaign that opened with the announcement to recipients that, “your child’s gender reassignment surgery has been booked.”
According to multiple screen shots that have been shared in media reports and on Twitter, there are multiple iterations of the message, which instruct recipients to donate to Barrett’s campaign to make clear their opposition to “the operation” and “Biden’s National Transgender Strategy.”
That “strategy,” according to a fundraising email linked to the text message, includes “forcing 5-year-olds to learn about gender reassignment surgeries, gender identities, and other radical ideas.”
Barrett’s office did not immediately return a request to comment from The Los Angeles Blade.
A second-term member of the Michigan Senate, Barrett is seeking the Republican nomination to run against Democratic incumbent Rep. Elissa Slotkin in the November general election to represent Michigan’s newly created 7th Congressional District. The Republican primary will be held on August 2.
Michigan State Senator Mallory McMorrow (D) made headlines earlier this week with a viral speech on the Senate floor in which she denounced her Republican colleagues’ use of scare tactics designed to inflame hatred toward LGBTQ people and their allies.
Republican State Senator Lana Theis had sent a fundraising email that accused McMorrow of wanting to “groom and sexualize kindergarteners” for her support of measures that protect LGBTQ youth in schools.
Meanwhile, WinRed – the fundraising platform behind Barrett’s text message and email campaigns – is under investigation by four state attorneys general for using tactics that violate the consumer protection laws, which follow a New York Times investigation of the Trump campaigns’ practice of automatically enrolling donors into monthly or weekly contributions.
In January, a federal judge in Minnesota struck down a lawsuit from the company that attempted to stop the probes.
Michigan State Sen. McMorrow calls out GOP attacks on LGBTQ+ people
“Christianity has been weaponized by Republicans to make people hate gay and trans kids,” McMorrow told the Blade.
LANSING – Michigan State Sen. Mallory McMorrow, accused by a Republican colleague of wanting to “groom and sexualize kindergarteners” because of her advocacy for LGBTQ youth in schools, denounced the allegations in a speech on the Senate floor Tuesday that has since gone viral.
In an exclusive interview Wednesday with The Los Angeles Blade, McMorrow said it is everyone’s responsibility to stand up to these types of attacks, which have been on the rise among Republican lawmakers who have sought to scapegoat vulnerable groups and weaponize hatred for their own political ends.
Senator Lana Theis accused me by name of grooming and sexualizing children in an attempt to marginalize me for standing up against her marginalizing the LGBTQ community…in a fundraising email, for herself.— Mallory McMorrow (@MalloryMcMorrow) April 19, 2022
Hate wins when people like me stand by and let it happen. I won't. pic.twitter.com/jL5GU42bTv
These tactics, often used to compensate for the GOP’s lack of any real policy solutions to offer voters, have been effective in the past – and there is therefore a moral as well as a political obligation to address them “head-on,” McMorrow said.
“We’ve seen this playbook time and time again,” she said, pointing to former president Donald Trump’s incitement of hatred against Mexican immigrants in his announcement of his candidacy in 2015. And “when I spoke to voters [in Michigan] about their number one concerns, so many people talked about immigration and caravans coming from the southern border” even though the state borders Canada, McMorrow said.
Confronted with allegations by Republicans that they are pedophiles, or that their support of LGBTQ youth is an endorsement of pedophilia, Democrats may be reluctant to engage either because the claims are so outrageous or because they detract from real, substantive policy discussions, McMorrow said. But Democrats must address these attacks, she said, to denounce them and to make clear that they are meant to deflect the conversation away from issues that really impact people’s lives.
Michigan’s Republican Senator Lana Theis leveled the pedophilia charge against McMorrow in a fundraising email that also – based on her support for curricula that addresses America’s record on race – accused McMorrow of wanting to teach schoolchildren that they bore responsibility for slavery.
In her speech before the Michigan Senate, which was viewed more than 8 million times on Twitter and shared by public figures including Hillary Clinton, McMorrow discussed her position as “a straight, white, Christian, married, suburban mom” in denouncing her colleague’s unfounded, bad-faith allegations.
“I know that hate will only win if people like me stand by and let it happen,” she said. “And I want to be very clear right now: Call me whatever you want. I know who I am. I know what faith and service mean, and what it calls for in this moment. We will not let hate win.”
She told the Blade that she hopes other women in her position will use their privilege to speak out against hate and reclaim the mantle of faith that has been coopted by those who seek to marginalize others. “Christianity has been weaponized by Republicans to make people hate gay and trans kids,” McMorrow said. “They’re targeting kids, and that is so beyond the pale.”
McMorrow said she will leave it up to her Senate colleagues to decide if formal action should be taken with respect to Theis – who, she noted, faces a Republican primary challenge and may have resorted to extreme rhetoric for this reason. McMorrow said that while some former GOP officials and staffers have pledged their support for her, none of her colleagues on the other side of the aisle have addressed the issue, not even privately.
Theis, for her part, addressed the matter in a tweet in which she accused McMorrow of capitalizing on the controversy to fundraise.
🧵 Sen. McMorrow is not naïve about politics and fundraising. I know that because it took her mere minutes to turn her Senate floor speech into a plea for campaign donations. 1/t— Lana Theis (@LanaTheis) April 20, 2022
Despite the certainty of a veto from Michigan’s Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer, the state’s overwhelmingly Republican legislature has introduced several bills targeting trans youth, including measures to ban their participation in sports, McMorrow said.
Republican legislatures across the country are considering or have passed anti-LGBTQ legislation aimed at young people in public schools, with controversies erupting in recent months over Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which prohibits any discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in certain grade levels, potentially criminalizing a teacher’s mention of her same-sex partner. Texas’s pursuit of “child abuse” charges against parents and providers who allow trans youth to access gender-affirming health care also made headlines earlier this year.
Just as McMorrow experienced, proponents of these bills, and Republican lawmakers more broadly, have sometimes resorted to the shameful tactic of slandering their opponents – Democrats, LGBTQ people and their allies – as pedophiles or enablers of child abuse.
Governor Ron DeSantis’s spokesperson tweeted in March that opponents of the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill are “groomers” or people who “don’t denounce the grooming of 4-8 year old children.”
The charge echoes Anita Bryant’s “Save the Children” campaign in the 1970s, through which she argued against protections for gay men and lesbians on the grounds that they sought to recruit and abuse children. More recent roots can be found in the rise of the right-wing QAnon conspiracy theory, which inspired a gunman to fire shots in a DC pizzeria in 2016, convinced that Democrats were abusing kids in its basement. Last month, during her confirmation hearings, Republican Senators accused Biden’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, of being soft on child abuse – despite her objectively mainstream sentencing record.
Following her viral speech on the Michigan Senate floor, state Sen. Mallory McMorrow says our obligation to speak up against hate is moral as well as political
There is a very real risk that unfounded allegations and conspiracy theories concerning pedophilia and child abuse can inspire real violence, McMorrow said, adding that she has received concerned messages from friends who feared she might be targeted over the attacks in Theis’s fundraising email. “It’s a very real threat,” she said.
While it was painful to read that email and unsettling to think about what its allegations could inspire, McMorrow emphasized that the pain with which marginalized people, her LGBTQ friends and colleagues – and LGBTQ youth, in particular – must live, every day, is far greater.
Michigan GOP House candidate to introduce ‘Don’t Say Gay’ if elected
Michigan’s Out Attorney General Dana told the Advance the legislation would be “one of the worst things that you can do for LGBTQ kids”
By Andrew Roth | KALAMAZOO COUNTY, Mich. – A Republican candidate for the Michigan House of Representatives announced that, if elected, he would introduce legislation modeled on a Florida measure known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
Jon Rocha, a candidate endorsed by former President Donald Trump in the 78th District, said his proposal would ban “discussion, or dissemination of materials, that involves sexual orientation, gender identity, or any sexually explicit content, in Kindergarten through 4th grade.”
“Elementary kids should be learning about math, science, history and how to read and write — radical, sexual indoctrination from adults pushing personal agendas has no place whatsoever in the education of Michigan’s youngest students,” Rocha said in a statement.
The newly-drawn 78th District includes parts of Eaton, Barry, Ionia and Kent counties. Small business owner and citizen lobbyist Gina Johnsen recently announced she also is running as a Republican on a platform of transparency.
The legislation in Florida, which has been sent to the desk of GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis, would allow parents to sue school districts if their child is exposed to instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity deemed to not be “age-appropriate,” which the Florida Phoenix reports could include anything from kindergarten through high school.
Florida’s legislation has drawn backlash from leaders and corporations across the nation, with President Joe Biden calling it a “hateful bill.”
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona has said that “all schools receiving federal funding must follow federal civil rights law, including Title IX’s protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”
Jay Kaplan, an LGBTQ rights attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said the laws could have a chilling effect on teachers and school officials.
“If you look at the actual language of Florida’s law, it is so broad, and it’s so vague in terms of terminology,” Kaplan said. “It has the impact of potentially taking everything off the table.”
“How do you define classroom instruction? What if you have a student who was in a classroom, who happens to have two parents of the same gender showing up for, I don’t know, the Halloween party in the classroom, and in effect that should come up in discussion? Why does somebody have, you know, two moms or two dads? That can’t be discussed,” Kaplan said. “Let’s say, we’re talking about President Biden’s cabinet, and a student’s doing a report on [U.S. Transportation Secretary] Pete Buttigieg and the fact that he is married to his husband. Is that taken off the table? There’s so much vagueness in here.”
Kaplan said that chilling effect is already being seen, even in states that do not have the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” legislation yet.
“I got a call from a teacher a couple weeks ago, in Michigan, who was told by her principal that she cannot, if a student comes out to her as LGBTQ, that she’s not allowed to acknowledge it, nor is she allowed to say or do anything supportive of that child, because the school district might be sued,” Kaplan said. “Now, that’s totally incorrect. We don’t have a law like this in Michigan. And yet the thought from this principal was, well, they’re attempting to do this in Florida, it’s probably going to come to Michigan.”
A Democratic state senator in Florida has warned that the controversial legislation could drive teachers out of the state, the Florida Phoenix reported.
Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat who is Michigan’s first openly gay top statewide official who argued this month in front of the Michigan Supreme Court to include LGBTQ people in the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, told the Advance the legislation would be “one of the worst things that you can do for LGBTQ kids.”
“It says that they don’t exist, which of course, they really do,” said Nessel, who as a private attorney argued against Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned in 2015. “It will lead to a marked increase in suicide among LGBTQ kids, or the children of LGBTQ parents.”
Simply acknowledging the existence of LGBTQ individuals can have a profound impact for their mental health, especially during their formative years, Nessel said.
“Just by virtue of Gov. [Gretchen] Whitmer putting a pride flag out in June, outside the Romney Building, I can’t even tell you the significance of just acknowledging this community, what it meant to so many people in this state,” Nessel said. “Not even any word, just putting that flag out. There were kids that didn’t slit their wrists, and didn’t jump off a bridge that day, because they had a governor that acknowledged that they exist and that they should be proud of who they are.”
Beyond mental health struggles, Kaplan said it could also lead to external safety threats for LGBTQ students.
“This helps to foster this environment that somehow to be LGBTQ is forbidden, is wrong,” Kaplan said. “I think it also sends a message to other kids that to be LGBTQ or to identify as that is wrong. And it can also put those LGBTQ kids not only at risk for mental health harm, but also for physical harm, for bullying and harassment by other students, because this message is being communicated.”
Legislation restricting the rights of LGBTQ individuals has recently moved in at least 10 other states, reports Them, an LGBTQ magazine launched in 2017.
“We’re obviously seeing a trend,” Kaplan said. “I think this is one of the worst years in terms of anti-LGBTQ legislation introduced in other state legislatures that we’ve ever seen, particularly targeting LGBTQ youth.”
Kaplan said there is a link between the trend of anti-LGBTQ legislation and the rise of Critical Race Theory as an issue for Republicans across the country, with the issues being similarly framed and weaponized.
“You absolutely see that connection. We’ve heard of particular groups appearing at school board meetings, and they have a three-point initiative: They don’t want discussion of critical race theory, in the past they didn’t want the kids wearing masks in school, and they also don’t want policies that are supportive of LGBT kids in school,” Kaplan said. “And sometimes they also will include they want to see transgender kids prohibited from being able to play school sports in accordance with their gender identity.”
Kaplan said that the legislation is designed for political gain, rather than from the standpoint of useful policy.
“The other thing that’s so important to keep in mind is the impetus behind much of this legislation is political. It’s trying to score political points, and trying to solidify political bases, by attacking particular groups of people — in this case, some of the most vulnerable people, LGBTQ kids,” Kaplan said. “And we have to call it out for what it is.”
This is a party (the GOP) that operates on cruelty and hatred. And I can’t imagine wanting to be a member of a party that wants to target some of the most vulnerable people in our society. I don’t know what people get out of that. I don’t know what’s enjoyable about that. – Attorney General Dana Nessel
Nessel said the strategy dates back decades.
“I feel like I’ve seen this from the Republican Party. I’ve seen this playbook, you know, I feel like my whole life,” Nessel said. “This is a party that operates on cruelty and hatred. And I can’t imagine wanting to be a member of a party that wants to target some of the most vulnerable people in our society. I don’t know what people get out of that. I don’t know what’s enjoyable about that. I don’t know what motivates a person to run for office, if their goal is to discriminate against their own constituents. It’s very disturbing to me. And I won’t ever understand it.”
“These are not legitimate issues for people to be concerned about. A person having medical insurance, that’s a legitimate issue. A person being able to find affordable housing, that’s a legitimate issue. A person having clean water to drink and clean air to breathe, that’s a legitimate issue. But because the Republicans don’t have policies that regular people would support on any of those issues, instead, they have to turn to these wedge issues that are divisive, and really are unhelpful to anyone.”
Nessel said that the policies need to be a defining issue for voters in the upcoming midterm elections. She is up for reelection this fall and likely will face former House Speaker Tom Leonard (R-DeWitt), state Rep. Ryan Berman (R-Commerce Twp.) or Kalamazoo-based attorney Matthew DePerno, who all have right-wing stances on social issues.
“All hope is not lost, but people have to pay really close attention to who they vote for, and people have to get out and vote,” Nessel said. “For everyone who’s an ally, who supports the LGBTQ community, you know, it just has to be bigger than issues like taxes, or issues like differences on COVID relief, or something of that nature. This is about acknowledging a very large percentage of our state as just as human. I mean, it’s as simple as that.”
Ultimately, Nessel said she wants LGBTQ people to know that while “you may have one party that wants to erase you,” LGBTQ individuals also “have an entire political party structure here in the state of Michigan that cares about you, and that supports you, and that believes that you matter, and that’s willing to fight for you.”
Andrew Roth is a reporting intern with the Michigan Advance. He has been covering Michigan policy and politics for three years across a number of publications and studies journalism at Michigan State University.
The preceding article was previously published by the Michigan Advance and is republished by permission.
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