William Sawyer-Todd is the chair of the Lansing Human Rights Political Action Committee, and the chair of the East Lansing Human Rights Commission.
PQ/ There are young people demanding their rights because they thought it shouldn’t be any other way. When I was growing up it was quiet different.
1. What does the Political Action Committee of the Lansing Human Rights Association do?
As far as I know, our PAC is the longest-serving organization that rates candidates for public office on LGBT issues and questions. We survey, rate them and disseminate that information. We’ve done that for Ingham County for 30 years. Now we do it for Eaton and Clinton counties too.
We do rate candidates all the way up to the presidency, but our survey is strictly for those three counties. It goes all the way down to school board and city commissions, so people in those counties can know whom to elect in office. This is certainly important to (the LGBT community).
2. How has the survey evolved over the years?
We started asking constantly about marriage equality and the feelings of officeholders on what they think of that. Bullying is in the spotlight right now, but we’ve been surveying about that for quite a while.
3. So when it’s not an election year, what do you do?
We start fundraising and reach out deeper into the community. We just started a Facebook page. What we want to do is expand (our activities) more and more electronically. We’re working to help people find out where they need to vote, how to register, when they need to register … in a college town a lot of students don’t know what to do or how to get involved.
4. How do you feel so far about Rick Snyder?
We sent a survey to the candidate Rick Snyder, and he wrote us back that he does not fill out questionnaires from special interest groups. We followed him in the media and he did not seem to have a particular problem with LGBT issues, however that’s not exactly proactive either. And also, as any student of history knows, what a candidate says and what an elected official says can be two different things.
5. You’ve been involved in pushing for change for a while. Why is it so important to get involved?
I always feel like I can push for more. I always feel like we can be more proactive in our organizations everywhere along the line. I’m not a person to stand back and watch. I respect those that make that choice in the sense that there’s a lot of pain out there, but for those that are stronger, that feel like they want to make a better place to live and interact for all people, I strongly urge them to find their niche, whatever it is, to dedicate some time to give back to their community. I see lot of young, impatient people and I certainly was one of them, but as I’ve grown older it’s been very satisfying that I do get to see the long-term change. When you’re right up close to it, you see it zig-zag back and forth, you take one step forward and two steps back, you see progress and you lose rights. But in the long-term things are so much better than they were when I first came on the scene in the 70s…
I see students today, young people today, that have a self-confidence that my generation did not always get a chance to have. That’s enormously rewarding to see the progress there. There are young people demanding their rights because they thought it shouldn’t be any other way. When I was growing up it was quite different. We never dreamed of marriage. We didn’t. And looks what’s on the forefront.