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By Howard Israel
In response to Tim Retzloff’s commentary: “Remembering the History of Michigan’s LGBT Ballot Fights.”
As Tim Retzloff points out, there have been many successes in establishing local legal protections from discrimination for LGBT people in cities across Michigan. With extraordinary efforts in some ballot cases, utilizing armies of volunteers and meaningful resources, some cities have been successful in adding LGBT protections to their nondiscrimination policies. In some cities, city councils, not the voters, have established LGBT legal protections. Sadly, transgender individuals are still not protected, even in cities with LGB protections.
Despite local successes, there are still no instances of any successful statewide LGBT-related referenda in Michigan. None. Not one. And certainly none yet has included the hot button issue of gender identity. Michigan voters have never approved of LGBT civil rights protections in a statewide ballot initiative.
I am grateful for Dr. Retzloff’s scholarship, but optimism about LGBT progress must be tempered by the fact that winning statewide recognition requires time, cash and organization. The critical lesson learned in building a national movement towards marriage equality – over a 40-year span – is that the LGBT community, partnering with our friends and advocates, moved the hearts and minds of the majority of the general public. We must be mindful that our every push forward should be thoughtful and strategic because poorly-timed, hastily and inadequately executed initiative efforts waste our resources, damage our political clout, drain our energies and demoralize our spirits.
Click here for a list of Michigan cities that offer LGBT legal protections. (Equality Michigan, updated October, 2015)