BTL Editorial: Snyder And GOP Abandon LGBT Equality - Again

By BTL Staff

Governor Rick Snyder and the GOP legislative leadership abandoned the LGBT community last week when they could not muster even one co-sponsor of an amendment to the state's civil rights bill. All of the House (50 out of 50, plus one Independent) Democrats co-sponsored a bill to amend the state's civil rights law to include sexual orientation and gender identity. Eleven of the 12 Senate Democrats voted to support the Senate version of the bill (with Tupac Hunter not voting for it.) Not one Republican has signed on, and Snyder did not come out and support the bill or encourage any of his party's members to reach across the aisle last week when he could have.

"One thing as governor I've learned is it's not good to tell the Legislature what to do too much. I really do recommend they look at it. In terms of the timing, I leave that to their decision," Snyder told MLIVE.

The 1976 Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Bill makes it illegal to discriminate in employment, housing and public accommodations based on religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status or marital status, but it does not include protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Over the past 18 months, a coalition of LGBT activists, civil rights groups, business leaders and some moderate Republicans lobbied the Republican leadership - including Gov. Snyder, House Majority leader Jase Bolger and Senate Majority leader Randy Richardville - to support a bill to amend Elliott-Larsen to include sexual orientation and gender identity. They thought they had a deal to introduce a bi-partisan bill last week, but at the last minute, the Republicans blinked. The Michigan GOP just couldn't bring themselves to support equal rights for LGBT people.

So the Democrats did it on their own with no Republican participation - yet. With no support from the majority party, there is almost no chance for the bill to pass this session.

Snyder could have shown his tough "nerd" leadership, like he did when he (unfortunately) supported Right To Work, or when he pushed through a tax on retiree's pension benefits, or eviscerated education funding, or attacked women's rights. He certainly has proved he can be tough when it suits him and his far-right funders. But when it comes to dealing with issues that impact the people of Michigan - the elderly, the young, working people, women, vulnerable minorities - he can't be bothered.

There is some talk about introducing a bi-partisan version of the bill after the November election in the lame duck session. The hope is that some Republicans might find the courage to stand up for equal rights once the threat is gone of losing their seat due to an anti-LGBT, Tea Party backlash. But they seem tempted to "compromise" on an unacceptable bill that either excludes the transgender community or includes a sweeping religious exemption, or both. Such a compromise would leave the transgender community even more vulnerable to discrimination because they would be specifically excluded, and the religious exemption would give bigots a free pass to discriminate against any person they didn't happen to like. It would be better to have no bill than such a flawed "compromise" bill.

We don't want Snyder, who defines leadership as being tough on LGBT people, seniors, education, women and working people, to win a second term. We need Mark Schauer to be our next governor, a man who recognizes that social issues are the very ones that impact the lives and well-being of all people living, working and supporting families here in Michigan. That is why BTL has strongly endorsed Mark Schauer for Governor and Lisa Brown for Lieutenant Governor. We encourage readers to vote for them and to tell your families and friends that Snyder continues to abandon the LGBT community in favor of political expediency.

The people of Michigan don't fare well on Snyder's balance sheet. We need a governor that values people, not a spreadsheet analyst that abandons the people when they most need his leadership.

Mark Schauer and Lisa Brown will not abandon the LGBT community or our allies. We need them to win in November, and we need to know that we will have a governor willing to represent all the people of this great state.

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