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LGBT voters in Detroit are faced with an uninspiring choice in the upcoming mayoral election in Detroit. BTL interviewed incumbent Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in this issue, and last week we published an exclusive interview with challenger Freman Hendrix. We were unimpressed with the responses from either candidate.
To his credit, Kilpatrick has learned much about the LGBT community during his first term as mayor. He met with LGBT leaders and attended important events including Hotter Than July! But after four years in office, there are few tangible results that LGBT voters can point to as a reason for future support of this mayor.
In the interview he says all the right things – he supports domestic partner benefits, he thinks the police department and other city service agencies need extensive training, and he does not support the use of public funds or space by discriminatory organizations like the Boy Scouts. But when it comes to actually doing something that would make Detroit a better place for LGBT citizens, he lacks the vision and resolve. We can only expect that in a second Kilpatrick term the LGBT community would remain only as an annoying afterthought to his administration.
Hendrix told BTL that he supports domestic partner benefits and would work to see that they were implemented for city employees. That is a good thing. But his lack of knowledge on LGBT issues was breathtaking. He was unaware that LGBT people have no state or federal protections against discrimination in the workplace, housing and public accommodations, an amazing admission for a major political person in 2005. He knows few LGBT people, and the learning curve for a Mayor Hendrix on LGBT issues would be steep. Although he appears at least curious, we did not get the sense that Hendrix appreciates the political, social and cultural contributions that a strong LGBT community could provide to help rebuild Detroit.
Detroit’s problems are legion. The budget crisis, urban blight, high unemployment, a shaky auto industry, and a school system that needs more of everything are just the top problems facing Michigan’s largest city. Whoever is mayor will be consumed with the daily grind of governance. It is unlikely that either candidate will take the time and energy to really think about LGBT issues much at all. How we could become part of the solution to Detroit’s urban reconstruction, how we could contribute to making Detroit a cultural and artistic center, how LGBT community involvement in civic affairs and planning would attract well-educated younger people to Detroit – we have no reason to believe that any of that will be a priority under either a Hendrix or a Kilpatrick administration.
In choosing between Hendrix and Kilpatrick, we consider it a tie on LGBT issues – neither one warrants an endorsement from BTL. We encourage people to consider the many other issues in this election when making their decision. Who do you think would be a better administrator of Detroit’s unwieldy city hall? Who would do the most to bring new development to the city, and who would best represent the city to the outside world?
We encourage everyone to vote in the election, because whoever is mayor after next Tuesday needs to know that the LGBT community is a strong voting community. That’s the only way we can ever hope to eventually get the attention of the person in the mayor’s office.