By SHARON GITTLEMAN
FERNDALE – Will you vote on Nov. 7?
With the governor’s race, Proposal 2, the Senatorial campaign and local issues affecting human rights on the ballot, LGBT activists and other civic-minded folks hope your answer is “yes.”
Representatives of the Human Rights Campaign, Michigan Equality, FAVOR, Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, Emily’s List and other organizations gathered together in Ferndale last week for a “Get out the Vote Rally.”
Ferndale City Councilman Craig Covey, the master of ceremonies for the event, said he thought this election was a pivotal moment for the country’s future.
“It’s a make or brake time,” he said. “We have to change the way American government is disfunctioning.”
Michigan issues aren’t only of interest to the state’s residents, said Stuart Rosenberg, regional field director for the Human Rights Campaign.
“GLBT issues most often get decided at the state and local level,” he said. “Anything we can do to build GLBT political power on the sate and local level we want to do.”
Looking to one party as your sole ally could be a mistake, he said.
“The more GLBT’s get engaged in the electoral process the more they’ll see that GLBT rights aren’t a Republican/Democratic thing,” he said. “The more informed you become on a personal level, the more you recognize we have friends and enemies on both sides of the aisle.”
People at the rally listened to speakers, mulled over flyers and pamphlets and talked to each other about the issues and candidates up for vote on the ballot.
“Someone asked me why we needed a rally,” said HRC Board of Governors Member Michelle Brown. “We need to give a shout out to the ceiling. ”
More then LGBT issues are at stake, she said.
Everything from the environment to the strength of area communities will be affected by the November election.
“Yes on 2, means those future Jennifer Granholms and Debbie Stabenows won’t have the right to lead us to equality,” she said. “Your mantra for the next two weeks – vote, vote, vote.”
The potential effects of Proposal 2, got special scrutiny from speakers and the groups they represented.
Proposal 2, would amend the Michigan constitution to abolish affirmative action, banning programs that give weight to factors like gender, race, ethnicity, color and national origin in public education, employment and contracts.
One organization’s flyer warned Prop 2, would eliminate programs that help women achieve equal pay for equal work and end educational scholarships and financial aide set aside for women and minorities.
“We don’t need to roll back progress,” said Jay Kaplan, ACLU of Michigan LGBT project staff attorney, and Proposal 2 opponent. “I think it’s naive to believe there’s total equality in this state and racism and sexism doesn’t exist.”
Why vote to continue a remedy that hasn’t worked decades after it was implemented?
“I guess we have to keep working at it, don’t we?” he said.
Kaplan also spoke to white gay men who feel they don’t have a stake in the issue.
“I care about civil rights,” he said. “Any roll back for civil rights for anybody will impact the gay community.”
He said with just 10 percent of the population, gays and lesbians won’t be able to end discrimination against the LGBT community on their own – without allies amongst other like-minded groups.
“I think there’s an excitement and interest in the election,” said Kaplan. “I think people realize how we’ll vote and who we vote for will have an impact on our struggle for civil rights. This really could be a turning point.”
Derek Smiertka, executive director for Michigan Equality, said he thinks there will be a big rush to the polls on Nov. 7.
He said a variety of organizations have been contacting residents by phone, through mailings and in person, urging them to get out and vote.
“We have an aggressive state house and senate on women, minorities and basic human rights,” he said. “People are ready for the change. They are engaged in the election. They are ready to have their voice heard that they will not allow the erosion of their rights.”