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The GLBT 11th Commandment

By Michael Einheuser

Who knew that the political wisdom of former President Ronald Reagan would be relevant to the LGBT political agenda in Michigan? Reagan popularized his 11th Commandment: "Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican." Those who claim political leadership in our community should give those words careful thought.
Who also knew that we would ever see the day that an all-star collection of LGBT advocacy organizations would jointly issue a statement that both finds common cause with Gov. Rick Snyder and obliquely but soundly criticizes the work of Attorney Dana Nessel, a key legal advocate in DeBoer v. Snyder.
Reality check one: Snyder signed legislation prohibiting local communities from recognizing same-sex unions and allowing adoptions agencies to discriminate against us on religious grounds.
Reality check two: In representing the plaintiffs in DeBoer v. Snyder (yes, that Snyder), Nessel was a key part of the nationwide recognition of constitutional protections for all same-sex unions. Ms. Nessel has arguably accomplished more for our community than any other single individual in the state.
Ms. Nessel has launched an effort to collect signatures to put the question of amending Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act on the 2016 ballot. The amendment would include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes. The signatories to the statement believe such an endeavor should not be undertaken. They say:
"Victory in Michigan requires thoughtful planning and, most importantly, sitting down with all of the many communities and groups whose support and engagement will be essential to successfully updating our laws. Any attempt to move forward without a clear path to victory is ultimately a disservice to the LGBT people who live in Michigan and risks dividing our community and others who deserve protection from discrimination."
This is no doubt that getting the necessary signatures to put this matter on the ballot is a very tall order. Funding and conducting a ballot issue campaign is an even taller one. But the accusation that Ms. Nessel is divisive and that her work will hinder the protection of the community from discrimination is a needless public insult to one of our community's heroines.
The strategy urged by these advocacy groups is working to elect a more gay friendly Legislature. That's a pretty tall order too. It's been observed that the current legislative district maps are so badly gerrymandered toward conservative Republicans that meaningful change will never happen until the maps are redrawn in 2021.
The two strategies are not mutually exclusive. The work of one group takes nothing away from the other. Ms. Nessel's has a good start. Her co-chair is Lansing attorney Richard McLellan, one of the state's most effective Republican political operatives.
The LGBT community should observe its own 11th Commandment. Let's agree not to publicly speak ill of fellow LGBT groups or individuals that act with good faith and seek to accomplish our shared goals.

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