The United States is moving forward. Michigan is moving back.
As of Tuesday, the U.S. officially got rid of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the ban on openly gay and lesbian service members in the military. Just five days before that, our state House decided to take away health benefits for domestic partners of state employees.
Neither of these actions come without caveats. The end of DADT signals a new era in the military’s treatment of the gay community, but there’s much more work to do. The fact that our state House voted to take away those health benefits – and that the Senate will very likely do the same – isn’t the end of that battle, either. By taking away those benefits, our state Republican lawmakers are stepping on the independence and the rights of three important entities: universities, city governments and unions. In other words, don’t expect those three institutions to accept losing autonomy without a fight.
Instead of engaging in long and costly legal battles, we hope that Gov. Rick Snyder vetoes the bill if it lands on his desk. Snyder ran as a moderate with a campaign that completely avoided social issues; instead, he said he would focus on fixing Michigan’s failing economy.
We assume that Gov. Snyder, with his Doogie-Howser-like achievement of three degrees before the age of 23, is too smart to be fooled into believing that these House bills are sound fiscal policy. We assume that Snyder will understand that taking away health benefits for hundreds of families in our state only hurts our economy. We hope that Snyder reiterates his disinterest in social issues by refusing to attack the hard-earned benefits of those who deserve them solely to advance the social agenda of a few Republican bigots.
Those few bigots are Rep. Dave Agema from Grandville, Rep. Tom McMillin from Rochester Hills, and Rep. Tom Hooker from Byron Center. We sincerely hope their constituents realize that the men they voted into office are more interested in pushing a backwards social agenda than they are addressing the serious economic issues facing the state. We also hope those constituents realize that they are paying those representatives with their tax dollars.
Perhaps most of all, we hope that Gov. Snyder realizes that he will have to address social issues if he hopes to truly move Michigan forward. He cannot ignore a select few zealots’ social agendas, even if they are thinly veiled as fiscal agendas. If Snyder chooses not to stop these homophobes in their paths, the state will continue to run backwards, socially and economically.
We must ask Snyder: who’s really governing the state?