By Dawn Wolfe Gutterman
FARMINGTON – In many ways, Trisha Stein is a social conservative’s nightmare. Raised by a single mother, Stein has not only done all right, she has excelled. And, worst yet from a conservative viewpoint, she credits being raised by a single mother with that success.
“I was raised by a single mother and grew up in an all-female household … so being empowered as a girl and as a woman was just central and core to my upbringing,” Stein says. “I was always told I could do anything I wanted to do, could be anything that I wanted to be.”
Stein ran her first political campaign, to help get her best friend elected as class president, in sixth grade. Since then she has worked in London in the House of Commons, as a communications analyst for the Michigan House, and in 1998 managed the campaign that helped elect another notable woman, Jennifer Granholm, as Michigan Attorney General. Now, she is using the power of her skills and her heart as executive director of One United Michigan to fight a California-sponsored ballot proposal that would end affirmative action programs in our state.
Her work at One United Michigan “stands for everything” she believes in, said Stein.
“As a professional and as a person, to maintain outreach and equal opportunity and affirmative action programs to be able to offer opportunities to women and minorities, to have better access to jobs, education and contracts, is really just – it makes sense,” she says. “Hopefully I’ll do well for my state and make it a place that my kids want to stick around and be in as well.”
It only takes a few moments of speaking with Stein to learn that real family values are at the core of what she does. According to Stein, the fight for affirmative action is also a fight for Michigan’s families. Speaking of the varied organizations that have joined One United Michigan, from LGBT groups to the Archdiocese of Michigan, Stein says, “They understand the benefits of equal opportunity, they understand the consequences to Michigan’s economy, to Michigan’s family if equal opportunities go away for the whole family unit.”
Asked about her work fighting Proposal 2 and her passion for including the LGBT community in the affirmative action fight, Stein mentions family again.
“The way I was raised, and because my mom was in hairdressing, I mean – having LGBT folks in my life is something I’ve known from get-go. And we’ve always had folks that, if you will, have had non-traditional lifestyles and non-traditional families in our lives and have been taught and understand that they should be as welcomed as anybody,” she says. “In our house growing up, I had more ‘uncles’ than I can shake a stick at.”
In addition, Stein says, including the LGBT community in One United Michigan is “a natural partnership.”
“Our opponents on this campaign are certainly your opponents in the LGBT community – I mean, there’s a lot of commonality there that folks that want to limit the rights of gay and lesbians also want to limit the rights that women and minorities have,” she says. “At least half of the LGBT community are women, so they certainly stand to benefit or lose depending on how this campaign goes.”
Ask about the passion in Stein’s life, about the force that keeps her motivated, and the first thing she talks about is her four-year-old adopted daughter.
“I really think being a parent changes everything,” she tells BTL. “Every essence of your being – but it’s really the youth and the ability to hopefully make the world a little bit better place and leave it as such for the folks that come after us.”
For more information or to become involved in the fight to retain affirmative action in Michigan, visit http://www.oneunitedmichigan.org