BY ERIC RADER
As we near the end of 2017, our sights turn to 2018 and the many challenges and opportunities that await in the new year. Few of us will be sad to see 2017 fade into history, given the cataclysmic political changes that have occurred this year. Unfortunately, it is still another three years until the next presidential election. Those of us who care about equal rights for the LGBT community, and for sane executive leadership, must continue to fight for our beliefs by marching, protesting, and engaging with allies who share our commitment to equality.
Though we may not be able to achieve much progress at the federal level for three more years, we do have a golden opportunity to effect change at the state level in Michigan next year. On Nov. 6, 2018, Michiganders will go to the polls to choose new officials to lead state government. The Republican governor, Republican attorney general, and Republican secretary of state are all term-limited and unable to continue in their current jobs. Over 2/3 of the members of the Michigan Senate, and
almost 1/4 of the Michigan House, will be ineligible to run for reelection in 2018. Next year’s statewide elections provide a rare chance to put into positions of authority public servants who support an inclusive and progressive agenda that will benefit all Michiganders, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The marquee race in Michigan next year will be the campaign for Michigan governor. Already, several candidates have announced their intentions to run for governor in 2018. On the Democratic side, the announced candidates are former Michigan Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, former Detroit health director Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, and businessman Shri Thanedar. The leading Republicans include Attorney General Bill Schuette, State Senator Patrick Colbeck, and Lieutenant Governor Brian
Calley (not yet an official candidate). Democratic and Republican voters will select their parties’ nominees for governor and other offices in the statewide primary election next Aug. 7.
As the gubernatorial and other races begin to heat up in early 2018, it is critical that the LGBT community remain engaged in the political process. None of the Republican candidates support LGBT equality, and in fact, the leading contenders have been openly hostile to our community. The most anti-LGBT of all the Republican candidates is Bill Schuette, the current Attorney General and the man considered to be the front-runner on the GOP side. Throughout his career in state government, as well as his legislative career in Congress and in the Michigan Legislature, Schuette has consistently and steadfastly opposed any and all efforts to protect the legal rights of LGBT citizens. As attorney general since 2011, Schuette has taken strong legal stands against LGBT Michiganders. Most infamously, he opposed April and Jayne DeBoer-Rowse, the lesbian couple from Hazel Park, in their successful challenge to Michigan’s anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment. Schuette has also opposed the right of married same-sex couples to adopt, and the inclusion of LGBT Michiganders in the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. Quite frankly, none of Schuette’s opponents in the Republican field are any better on LGBT equality.
The Democratic candidates are a different story for LGBT equality, and on every other issue of consequence. All of the Democratic contenders are strong supporters of the LGBT community. They all embrace the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling allowing marriage equality, they all support the right of LGBT couples to adopt, and they all endorse including protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in the state’s Elliott-Larsen civil rights law. The Democratic candidates recognize the basic dignity and worth of all Michiganders, including those of us who are LGBT. Regardless of who wins the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018, our community can be assured that the nominee will fight for our rights and would provide strong executive leadership as governor on behalf of LGBT Michiganders.
We must all work on behalf of progressive candidates up and down the ballot in 2018 to bring about genuine progress. Now is the time to get involved. We need to be visible and active throughout all of 2018, not just next fall. If the 2016 elections taught us anything, it’s that we can’t take anything for granted. If we devote ourselves now to electing a good and progressive governor, along with pro-equality candidates for all of the other statewide offices, we can enter 2019 feeling far better than we’ve felt throughout 2017, and energized to carry our progressive agenda into the presidential election in 2020.
Eric Rader teaches political science at Henry Ford College and loves talking politics. Connect with Eric at [email protected], or via Twitter @RaderEric.