Q&A with Mich. Democratic Attorney General Candidate Patrick Miles

Kate Opalewski
By | 2018-10-03T16:03:47+00:00 January 10th, 2018|Election, Election 2018, LGBTQA Races, Michigan, News, Statewide Races|

Patrick Miles

See the BTL introduction to this candidate’s interview

Tell me how you are going to play a major role in helping the LGBTQ community achieve full equality?
The attorney general position is a very powerful position. It’s the second most powerful in the state, after the governor. You have the ability to speak out as well as the ability to question laws that are not constitutional, and not in the public interest, and challenge those laws, both laws coming out of Lansing, and out of Washington D.C. We’ve seen in many instances things coming out of the Trump Administration or things that were done by Attorney General Schuette that were contrary to equality for all people, especially our LGBT community. We saw an interference with the civil rights commission coming out of Washington, affecting the LGBT community as well as where the Attorney General Bill Schuette interfered in the Civil Rights Commission interpreting Elliott-Larsen to include protections for Michigan LGBT residents. I believe that interference was inappropriate. I believe we should advocate for amending ELCRA to cover LGBT residents specifically, but certainly the Commission can give its interpretation.

What would you say to those who don’t share that same opinion in light of the current administration?
I would say that we have a Constitution and the Constitution gives people protection for all and we have to follow the Constitution and follow what the law says. And when you selectively deny those rights to groups then we’re not following our American heritage.

Discuss a time personally or professionally when you’ve assisted the LGBTQ community? Have you ever prosecuted a person for a hate crime against the LGBTQ community?
One instance where as U.S. Attorney I helped convene a meeting between law enforcement in Grand Rapids and the LGBT community to talk about the treatment of LGBT residents by law enforcement and that was a very candid discussion. It was a very productive discussion as I think both sides needed to hear the concerns of the other, but it’s particularly law enforcement that needed to hear how the LGBT community felt that it was being harassed and mistreated and not fully served by law enforcement so that was a very important discussion that we had while I was U.S. Attorney and I’ve really always wanted to foster open communication between law enforcement and the various communities that it serves because if you don’t have a relationship you can’t have trust and if you have a breakdown in trust, then bad things can happen in the community and bad things can be made worse if an incident arises. In terms of the Matthew Shepard hate crimes law, frankly is very limited in jurisdictions with the federal government. We investigated several hate crimes, but there was really more authority at the local level for the county prosecutors and for the state to bring cases then at the federal level. There were instances that if we felt the county did not do something, we would find a way to take action. The job of the U.S. Attorney just like the job of Attorney General – the number one mission – is to protect the public and we have to protect everyone and ensure justice for all.

Do you believe that the government and private businesses can deny goods and services to LGBTQ people, same-sex couples and their families?
No, of course not. Once you’ve entered commerce, to discriminate is wrong. That’s to me an absurd example of an ideology that’s run afoul. Where again, it’s contrary to our U.S. Constitution where we have equal protection laws for a reason in the Constitution and especially with someone that’s entered commerce and is in business and to be able to discriminate is just wrong. I, as an African American have been on the wrong end of discrimination myself so I definitely empathize with what’s happening.

Can you tell me how your experience being on the wrong end of discrimination will influence the way you address some of the problems faced by LGBTQ African Americans who live at the intersection of racism, homophobia and transphobia?
Oh, no question they do. And I even addressed some of those issues when I was a U.S. attorney. I was co-chair of the Michigan Alliance Against Hate Crimes as a U.S. attorney and I spoke at all of the [MIAAHC] conferences. And, I also, as I mentioned, helped convene a session between the LGBTQ community and law enforcement to talk about police harassment, and re-victimization, and how that community feels like it really doesn’t have support from law enforcement – in fact, feels the opposite, feels sometimes persecuted by law enforcement as well – the discrimination that people in the community face day to day in their lives and the struggles they face in housing, and employment, and in other facets of daily living. And so, I’m very much aware of those challenges. And, I don’t just see them once in a while. That’s my framework. That’s my prism. I can’t help that, being an African American, seeing racial discrimination when it’s happening.

Can you discuss why you didn’t support same-sex marriage in 2010 and why you’ve changed your mind since then?
Like a lot of people, my views have changed. My position in 2010 was the same as many elected Democrats at the time, including President Obama. Just like the President, my position has evolved on that, where I believe in full equality under the law for everyone and that includes the right of same-sex couples to get married.

You have talked about being a devout Christian. Is it possible to close the chasm between the LGBTQ community and some religious communities?
It should be possible because the basis for unity is love and loving other people as yourself. It’s also not to be judgmental of others. Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged. So, that’s to me – those fundamental tenants really should be the basis of reconciliation and should be the basis of embracing all people even if there are differences. I also, again have come to the realization that we cannot enforce religious belief through government. We really need to keep church and state separate. The church’s job is to evangelize, and the governments job is to make sure that we have equal justice for all people.

Can you talk more specifically about how you believe SCOTUS should rule on the Masterpiece Cakeshop case?
Oh, I absolutely believe that someone in a commerce like a bakery, they’re not a church, they’re not a religious institution, they’re a business. And, they certainly should be serving everybody equally under the law. And, so that is something that is, to me, very objectionable that a bakery would say, “We’re not gonna do a cake for a same-sex couple.” That’s just absurd to me, and that should be given strict scrutiny by the Supreme Court. Because, I do believe that LGBTQ people should be classified as a suspect class, and they should be given rights under Elliott-Larsen, as well. So, I hope that’s clear.

The conservative strategy will continue to be pitting religious freedom against LGBTQ equality. With that in mind, please explain your time at Aquinas in 2008 when you supported the decision to uninvite Dr. John Corvino, “The Gay Moralist,” to speak on campus. Why did you think that was a good decision?
Well, at the time, I was the chairman of the board of trustees and was supporting the president who made the decision. But then, Aquinas, it’s a faith-based institution. And what I did, personally, I went and heard Dr. Corvino give his speech, which he did off campus and spent time with him. And because I felt it was important to hear his viewpoint, and I believe very strongly in that and I think it’s important to have the freedom to speak like that. Now, I personally, am not Catholic, but Aquinas is a Catholic institution. And so I wasn’t really in a position to say to the Catholic deities and others that they were wrong in terms of how they were gonna handle their institution. But, I went and heard Dr. Corvino and I was very impressed by him.

If you were attorney general right now how would handle the case the ACLU has brought against the state of Michigan alleging the 2015 adoption bills are unconstitutional?
Right, well I would say that the attorney general – and I don’t want to get into too many specifics on what I would do with individual cases without having all the facts and evidence, but I would definitely say that the point of adoption is something that again, to be parents, it benefits both children and parents who are loving and want to provide a loving and nurturing environment for children. I don’t think that I would support the current position of the state government. I would say that it should be constitutional.

Would you support the decriminalization of HIV status? More specifically, State Rep. Jon Hoadley’s (D-Kalamazoo) legislation that would repeal Michigan’s HIV specific felony law and replace it?
I have a tremendous respect for Rep. Jon Hoadley and would definitely look to support the legislation he is sponsoring based on that respect. Michigan’s current law was passed in 1988. I support updating the law to reflect current science on HIV transmission.

Would you enforce laws you don’t agree with?
I think the attorney general has to enforce the law of the people, but he doesn’t have to enforce unconstitutional laws. So you can’t bring your personal beliefs – I think we’ve had too much of that with Bill Schuette – where he’s had personal beliefs and he’s gone on some of these ideological crusades and wasted taxpayer dollars based on them and not based on what is constitutional and not constitutional, based on his own personal beliefs. I would enforce laws that I personally don’t agree with, but not that I believe are unconstitutional. There is a difference there.

Why should the LGBTQ community choose to vote for you over someone who helped the LGBTQ community win the right to marry?
The attorney general’s job is definitely one of a broad scope of challenges and issues. Whether it’s fighting crime, protecting consumers, restoring the consumer protection division to where it needs to be and was formally, and looking at the experience of the individual running to do the job and to know what will work and what won’t work in terms of implementing policies and programs. I’ve been U.S. Attorney so I’ve done the job and I’m able to have a record of not what I say I will do, but what I’ve done and so I hope that carries the day with every community, but particularly the LGBT community to trust that my values are in alignment with theirs and that I will work to protect their rights.

Can you be more specific about what you’ve done?
I guess I would refer back to the example of the Grand Rapids law enforcement – that would be one example and then say that again that I was a very proactive, progressive U.S. attorney in terms of a variety of policies and so whether it was on the reentry programs or reaching out to various communities – and I did this proactively, reaching out to various communities to say when I became U.S. Attorney that if there are civil rights issues in your community, let me know as U.S. Attorney and that’s something that really hadn’t been done before in this Western District and we increased a number of civil rights cases – more than doubled them in my tenure other than in the prior few years. We definitely wanted to work with every community to make sure that they were protected.

On Off the Record recently, you said you were “satisfied” with Attorney General Bill Schuette’s OK2Say program…
(The program, created in December 2013, is a multimedia outlet for students to confidentially report acts of violence among their peers, themselves or in their surroundings.)
Satisfied that Attorney General Schuette had begun it, but it certainly can be better and we can do better. We definitely need to look at schools discriminatory policies and especially when they’re coming out of the education department in D.C., and that’s again where the attorney general can push back against the Trump administration. Bullying definitely affects the LGBT community and children to a great degree and that’s something I’d like to see the OK2Say program expanded to specifically address that challenge. I don’t think that’s something that has been done and needs to be done.

The Matt Epling Safe School Law passed in 2011 without religious exemption language. The LGBTQ community’s view is that without enumeration, it has no real teeth against bullying based on bias. What is your view on the current law and should it be expanded to include enumeration?
I think that I would agree with you on that. So, yeah, I think that bullying is obviously something that youth who are discovering who they are, those are tough years, those teen years, especially. And so, for someone who’s different, is expressing themselves and then being bullying for it, that’s wrong. And, that can lead to suicide, it can lead to a lot of bad things. And so, I was subject to bullying myself when I was a teen, so I know how that can be…In some ways, even the teachers would even, you know when the popular kids do what they want to do, the teachers support the popular kids, right? It was almost like, you really feel helpless when even the teachers and the people who are supposed to be there to protect you and help you aren’t supporting you. So, I have a heart for these issues.


Patrick Miles

BIO

See the BTL introduction to this candidate’s interview

Name: Patrick Miles
Age: 50
Occupation: Of Counsel and a member of the Litigation Department at Barnes & Thornburg in Grand Rapids
Education: Graduate of Aquinas College and Harvard Law School
Experience: Appointed as the first African American to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2012 during the Obama administration, serving as the chief federal law enforcement officer covering 49 counties.
Personal note: Miles is a lifelong, fifth generation Michigander who grew up in a family that believes in hard work and service to others.
Noteworthy: As U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, Miles prosecuted the first-ever child sex trafficking case in the district and went on to prosecute 11 other defendants for sex trafficking minors.
Priorities: Fighting government corruption, protecting the vulnerable (children, seniors and veterans), combating the opioid crisis, safeguarding consumers and improving police and community relations.
Some endorsements: Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights; former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Barbara McQuade; U.S. Senator Carl Levin


 

Learn More About State Conventions
Inside the Michigan Democratic Party, state conventions are a yearly occurrence that offer members an opportunity to collectively make decisions on the future of the MDP. The nomination convention will take place Aug. 25-26 in Lansing. To allow candidates more time to campaign, the MDP has added an endorsement convention on April 15 at 9 a.m. at Cobo Center in Detroit. The nominee will be predetermined at this endorsement convention. While state conventions are open to all Democrats, only those who have been members for at least 30 days prior to the convention may vote or run for party office. Members of the community who wish to vote must fill out an MDP membership application via mail or online before March 15. Still have questions? Contact the MDP by phone at 517-371-5410 or by email at midemparty@michigandems.com. The state convention is explained online at michigandems.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/guide-to-convention.pdf.

Follow Pat Miles’ campaign online at milesformichigan.com/.

 

About the Author:

Kate Opalewski
Kate Opalewski is BTL's features editor and has been since 2015. She has covered a variety of topics ranging from art, politics and community outreach. Recently, she was honored by the Detroit Police Department LGBT Advisory Board for her work for the local LGBTQIA community.