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Voter Action Town Hall Lays Out Issues for LGBT Citizens

By |2012-09-27T09:00:00-04:00September 27th, 2012|Michigan, News|

Will you go down on the ballot? That’s the main concern of the panelists at the Voter Action Town Hall at Affirmations Sept. 19. The event had representatives from several of the Unity Michigan partners sharing information about the ways the LGBT community could be impacted by the coming elections, including the tendency for people to vote a straight party ticket without looking further for the non-partisan races. The non-partisan races are at the bottom or on the back of most ballots, and they aren’t included by a straight-party vote. The concept was best encapsulated in the recent West Wing promotion about the democratic crisis that occurs when voters ignore those races. See the West Wing video at

Go Down on the Ballot

Michigan is one of 16 states in which Supreme Court Justices are elected by the people in non-partisan elections. The Supreme Court, referred to as the “court of last resort,” renders decisions that can have enormous repercussions for the people of Michigan.
For example, The Michigan Supreme Court in 2010 ruled that the it is unconstitutional for public employers, like cities, the state itself and state universities, to extend health insurance to the same-sex partners of their employees. The Justices ruled in a contentious, 4 to 3 decision that extending health benefits violated the anti-marriage constitutional amendment of 2004.
“Michigan has one of the broadest prohibitions of relationship recognition in the country. And we’re the only state where that was manufactured through the court system,” said Jay Kaplan, staff attorney for the ACLU Michigan LGBT Project.
“For many years some of the same people have been at the court who have issued decisions that negatively impacted us,” said Kaplan. “They run and they get re-elected for eight-year terms. That’s a long time to be on the court and to make decisions that can affect everyone in terms of rights and civil rights for many many years to come,” he said.
Court cases on domestic partner benefits and second parent adoptions can set legal precedent. Conservative interpretations of the law in individual cases can be hard to reverse once made, so the power of State Supreme Court Justices is heavy.
The Michigan Supreme Court has three openings, and there are ten individuals running for those positions. On the ballot you will only see their name. But voter guides, such as the one at, let voters know which parties originally nominated the candidates to be Judges. For example, Shelia Johnson, Bridget Mary McCormack, and Connie Marie Kelley were all nominated by Democrats. The three woman are running on a slate they call “The Supremes,” and are strongly endorsed by Between The Lines among other progressive organizations. See more on the three candidates at

Six Ballot Initiatives

Robert Nothoff of Michigan Voice explained that voters have six different ballot proposals to vote on this election, which is the most they have faced since 1973. His organization is a coalition of progressive interests across the country, and the group’s endorsements tend to match those of He explained each ballot initiative for the crowd at the town hall:

Proposal 1 – Emergency Manager Referendum – would expand powers for emergency managers and the ability of the Governor to appoint EMs. Nothoff explained that in Michigan, Governor Snyder had been going into communities where the city or the school board was struggling financially and stripping the elected officials of their power, removing their power, and appointing someone of his choosing to be the EM.
“Now we have in this country one of the biggest strengths that we have and that we like to brag around the world about is the democratic process, small ‘d,’ right? That we elect our own people. What this really does is undermine that democratic process…’I’m gonna remove the person you all voted for and I’m gonna put someone in who will do a better job.’ And that is as anti-democratic as you can get, again small ‘d,'” Nothoff said. suggests voting “no,” on Proposal 1 as does Michigan Voice.

Proposal 2 – “Protect Our Jobs” Amendment – would make collective bargaining a right for public and private workers.
Tim Kahanak of Pride at Work has been at Chrysler for 36 years. To him the intersection of LGBT rights and collective bargaining rights makes perfect sense. “I’ve been in the UAW since I was 18,” he said. “I can’t tell you the good that the union has done for me.” He explained how unions in the auto industry in particular have led the way for workplace equality, and how collective bargaining has given him the right for his partner to have the same benefits as a married person could give their spouse. suggests voting “yes,” as does Michigan Voice.

Proposal 3 – Renewable Energy Amendment – would mandate that 25 percent of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2025. Nothoff said Michigan Voice supports a “yes” vote on Proposal 3 because “currently 60 percent of our energy is generated by coal and 100 percent of that coal comes from out of state. So not only does it create renewable energy sources, clean energy, but it also would employ more Michigan workers.” suggests voting “yes,” as does Michigan Voice.

Proposal 4 – Home Health Care Amendment – would give home health care providers limited collective bargaining rights. It would also provide for screening of health care providers and for patients to have a voice in who takes care of them. suggests voting “yes,” as does Michigan Voice.

Proposal 5 – Taxation Amendment – would require any increase in state taxes to be approved by 2/3 majority in the legislature or statewide vote. Nothoff said this is “a very scary one.” He said that “having spent the past eight years in the state of California, I can tell you what this does 30 years down the road. What it does is create a financial crisis in the long term because there’s so much back and forth, but you’re not allowed to raise taxes or find sources of income, and what happens is as a result they’ve cut their vital services we all need. This creates a death by a thousand cuts over time.” suggests voting “no,” as does Michigan Voice.

Proposal 6 – Michigan International Bridge Initiative – require voters to approve any new bridge or tunnel from the state to Canada. suggests voting “no,” while Michigan Voice has declined making a suggestion.

Get Organized

The Voter Action Town Hall attracted dozens of LGBT community members, many of whom take part in other voter mobilization activities and other activism. The Hungry4Equality strike continues now through the election. There are phone banks on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at Affirmations, and there are opportunities to do some door knocking.
Kevin Hogan of the Roundtable for Diversity said that mobilization is essential to making equality happen. “Those of you in your 20s, you will see it. Those of us in our 40s, 50s, and 60s, we need your help to see it happen.”
Johnny Jenkins of Affirmations said that many of the setbacks against LGBT people have been because of an organized opposition. “All of these organizations have been going since the 50s. They are organized and systematic. The LGBT community in Michigan has never been as organized as they are now… Educate your friends, your families and your neighbors about how important this is.”

Get Informed

Download the Voters Guide at To learn more about Michigan Voice go to For more on Hungry4Equality see

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