By Dawn Wolfe Gutterman
Don’t look now, but another Proposal 2 is coming down the pike.
And if it’s passed, this one is going to screw everyone.
We all know what 2004’s Proposal 2 did for gay families. Just ask any queer public employee who is worried about being able to provide basic health insurance to his or her family.
In 2006, the name, “Proposal 2,” is once again tied to bigotry – not against queers, but against economically disadvantaged racial minorities and women. Because, this time around, Proposal 2 is about banning affirmative action programs.
But unlike our fight against the 2004 proposal, this time around lots of voices from all over the spectrum are united in opposing Proposal 2.
Labor hates it because it would mess with their contracts. Business hates it because they fear it will further hurt our state’s economy. Groups as diverse as the Triangle Foundation and the Michigan Catholic Conference, the Detroit Democratic Socialists of America and business group Detroit Renaissance – all have signed on in support of One United Michigan, the coalition formed to defeat this latest Proposal 2.
When the Michigan Catholic Conference is willing to sign up on the same side as us queers, you know the stakes have got to be big.
But then, this year’s Proposal 2 is all about strange bedfellows, so to speak. Ward Connerly, the concerned California citizen who is trying to import his political success here to Michigan, opposes equal marriage bans.
That’s right. The man who wants to dismantle programs that are starting to help women and racial minorities achieve educational and business equality also opposes discrimination against LGBT families. State Representative Leon Drolet, R-Clinton Township and treasurer of the group who put this Proposal 2 on the ballot, himself voted against the anti-marriage proposal when it was before the state legislature in early 2004.
In other words, just as this battle is uniting people and groups who otherwise oppose each other, it is calling those of us who believe in levelling the playing field to oppose people who would otherwise be our allies.
This battle will test our community’s maturity like no other before it.
It’s relatively easy to unite against the Gary Glenns of the world when they come to stomp on our families and our rights. It’s harder to advocate for the rights of people we may perceive as “other” against people who are otherwise on our side. For one thing, many of the minorities and women for whom we are fighting will still take any chance they can to restrict our rights, no matter how hard we fight for theirs. And ours is community that still needs all the friends we can get, so it can be a scary thing to risk pissing off what friends we have.
But this time, pissing them off is a risk we have to take.
I would love to be able to tell you that it just ain’t so. I would love to be able to frame every political decision that we have to make, both individually and as a community, in fun and easy, black and white terms. “Do this and this,” I’d love to be able to say, “and our rights will be recognized, everyone will love us and all will be right with the world.”
But I can’t do that.
Granted, on the surface affirmative action programs may seem to be unfair. Why should anyone get ahead, people argue, just because of their gender or the color of their skin?
I argue because other people – mostly white, almost all male, and straight or willing to fake it – have been getting ahead in droves for no better reason than their gender and their skin color for hundreds of years. And because they’re still doing so. While most of us are familiar with the University of Michigan’s contested affirmative action program, for example, far fewer are aware that the University also gives prospective students extra points just for being the son or daughter of a UofM graduate. That’s right – just for being born to the right parents.
Meanwhile, the Bi Wonkette has yet to hear of someone being pulled over by a police officer for Driving While White.
When our country’s minorities, and when women, have something close to equal representation in the board room and the state house as we do in the population, then we can talk about dismantling the programs that got us there.
In the meantime, if we as a community really care about equal rights for all people, we’re going to have to tell some of our allies that they’ve got it wrong on this one.
How to help OUT:
One United Michigan needs you to help defeat the misnamed Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, 2006’s Proposal 2. For more information, to volunteer, or to make a donation, click here: http://www.oneunitedmichigan.org.