BTL Staff Report
DETROIT – In November, two openly gay men were elected to Michigan’s State House of Representatives and LGBT leaders now hold prominent positions at the highest levels of the Party. As a result, the morning meeting of the LGBT Caucuswas far more upbeat than the overall mood at the Michigan Democratic Party convention Feb. 14 at Cobo Hall in downtown Detroit. Party activists analyzed losses at the polls last November that resulted in Republicans strengthening their control over all three branches of state government.
LGBT Caucus Chair Mark LaChey led the two-hour caucus meeting along with Vice Chair Jan Stevenson. The first order of business was to re-elect LaChey and the three vice chairs including Stevenson, David Coulter and Toni Sessoms. All four were re-elected for another two-year term.
A steady stream of elected officials and candidates addressed the LGBT caucus, including both U.S. Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow; U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell and Brenda Lawrence; Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein; State Sen. Curtis Hertel; State Reps. Jeremy Moss, Kristy Pagan, Leslie Love, Christine Greig and Tim Greimel; State Party Chair Lon Johnson; Michigan State Board of Education Chair John Austin; and Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner.
Two openly gay candidates received enthusiastic support from LGBT caucus members. Ken Siver is running this November to become the first openly gay mayor of Southfield. Currently he serves on the city council and is hoping to replace the former mayor, Brenda Lawrence, who vacated the position when she won her race for the U.S. Congress last fall. Siver is strongly endorsed by his former council colleague State. Rep. Jeremy Moss, one of the two openly gay men elected to the state house along with Jon Hoadley from Kalamazoo. Lawrence also supports Siver to replace her as mayor. Siver’s likely Republican challenger will be council president Sylvia Jordan. She joined her husband, Larry Jordan, pastor of Family Victory Fellowship Church, at an anti-marriage equality rally Feb. 24, 2014, at the start of the DeBoer v Snyder federal court case. She has since made some public comments saying she does not support discrimination against LGBT people.
Brian Stone made an impassioned announcement that he will run for a seat in the Michigan State House in 2016. After a four year stint in the U.S. Navy, he returned to Michigan and applied to a state university, only to receive a letter from the school stating that he would be considered an out-of-state student because he had lived in Japan while serving his country. Stone discovered that many veterans who had served overseas, including in combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, had received similar letters from Michigan’s universities. Stone launched a successful campaign to change the state universities’ policies and now veterans can receive in-state status from Michigan universities. He now wants to continue his political activism as an elected state representative from Dearborn.
Several candidates that ran but lost their races last fall were warmly welcomed by the LGBT caucus. Lisa Brown lost her bid for Lieutenant Governor on Mark Schauer’s gubernatorial ticket. She remains Oakland County Clerk. Brown said that the best day of her entire political career was March 22, 2014 when she opened the clerk’s offices to perform over 120 same-sex marriages in the brief window of opportunity after U.S. District Judge Berndard Friedman declared Michigan’s marriage ban to be unconstitutional.
Joan Brausch lost her race against anti-LGBT activist Gary Glenn for state representative in the 98th District. Brausch reported that she received 37 percent of the vote, the highest recorded by a Democrat in that heavily Republican district in over 100 years.
Mark Totten ran and lost his bid to replace Michigan’s Attorney General Bill Schuette, but Totten said he is keeping up the fight for marriage equality and is preparing an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the Michigan Democratic Party. The party counters U.S. Appeals Judge Sutton’s opinion that marriage equality should “be left to be resolved by the political process.” Totten said the Ohio Democratic Party is joining the brief and they are encouraging their counterparts in Tennessee and Kentucky to join too.
To learn more about the MDP LGBT and Allies Caucus vist the Facebook page/TheLGBTACaucusoftheMDP