The most prominent gay politician in the U.S., Barney Frank, will be the special guest at an LGBTQ fundraiser for Dana Nessel, Democratic candidate for attorney general, at 7 p.m. on Sept. 6 at the home of Jason Misleh, 18695 Fairfield in Detroit.
"I am humbled and honored to have Rep. Barney Frank, an icon of Congress, support my candidacy for Michigan attorney general," said Nessel, who like Frank, if elected, will make history in the state as Michigan's first openly gay statewide office holder.
Frank, who came out as gay in 1987 as a member of Congress, served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Massachusetts from 1981 to 2013.
"Also like Rep. Frank," Nessel said. "I intend to use the office to support the LGBTQ community while simultaneously protecting the civil liberties of all our state's residents, including members of our most vulnerable minority groups who so badly need a state actor committed to protecting them from discrimination."
Nessel said she wants people to understand that equal protection is not a "zero-sum game." "When one group of people gain more rights, others do not lose their rights. We are all Michiganders, we are all Americans, and everyone in our great state is entitled to equal protection under the law," Nessel said. "Barney Frank has always understood this notion. I hope to follow his lead as the top law enforcement official of Michigan."
To help Nessel achieve this goal, support from members of the community is needed, according to Michael Einheuser, one of the hosts and estate planning attorney at Einheuser Legal, P.C. in Bingham Farms.
"The general election is going to be a very, very hard-fought campaign. We know that there will be a great deal of negative advertising put against her and we know that there will be a great deal of outside money from some very conservative sources, and if there was one time that the LGBTQ community should put aside any internal disagreements, it should be around this campaign," he said. "The idea is to see if we can get the LGBTQ community to close ranks and help fund Dana's campaign … and we're grateful that Congressman Frank is coming by to help us out."
Beyond being a role model as "America's only left-handed, gay, Jewish congressman," Frank's legacy is tied to the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which imposed financial reforms after the recession. BTL spoke with Frank on Monday, Aug. 20 about why he is attending this fundraiser, what he thinks about the political environment and what members of the LGBTQ community can do in addition to voting in the next general election.
Why should members of the community come out to support Dana Nessel?
Having out members of our community in public office is very important on two levels. Obviously, it's also important to be supportive of straight people who have been supportive of us – we're a minority and we need allies. But there is an element of being out that is important on two levels. First of all, while we've made a great deal of progress in diminishing prejudice, there still are people who have the prejudice. There are still young LGBT people who are intimidated by the prejudice. So for both cases, having people who are out, who are talented and able and intelligent, that's very important. It helps to repudiate the prejudice and it also helps to inspire younger people that they shouldn't allow the prejudice to intimidate them. Secondly, there are issues that are going to come up – look, when you're in office, you can't do everything you would like to do all the time. You have a limited amount of time, you have a limited amount of money at your disposal. You have a limited amount of political issues you can press in terms of where they are and it is important for us, especially now, to have people who are LGBT themselves in the position to make that point because we now have in Donald Trump and the Supreme Court, unfortunately, probably — although I hope we can fight it — the most hostile attitude towards our rights in a long time.
What do you mean?
He's not going to undo, for example, marriage. I don't think they want to, politically, but what they are going to do without rolling back specific rights is to increase the exceptions to those rights. Particularly, they're going to be seeking to empower anybody who says they don't like us for religious reasons to be able to deny recognizing our rights and that's a legal battle where the states can get involved and the states, for example, can enforce — the attorney general can reinforce state anti-discrimination laws. So, we're in a major legal battle with Donald Trump, not just on issues across the board like the environment, but on LGBT rights and whether or not we're going to have those rights fully or they're going to be eroded.
Is that what's at risk with Brett Kavanaugh's appointment?
Oh, absolutely. It's totally at risk. It's outrageous what they got away with and I am very disappointed in Justice Kennedy. On the specific issues of LGBT rights he's been very good, but he quite deliberately timed his resignation and I have to say it makes me doubt the depth of his commitment to our being treated fairly because he clearly timed his resignation to make sure that Donald Trump would be able to appoint his replacement – making sure for instance that he does it before there might be a Democratic senate. So it was a great disappointment by Kennedy. There are now going to be five anti-LGBT votes. …
Does this political environment remind you of any other time – generally and with respect to LGBTQ rights?
No, because there has not been a previous point where we were in danger of losing our rights because, frankly, we didn't have them. The history of LGBT rights in the last 50 years has been an improvement. This is the first time that we've had somebody threaten to go back. We had problems obviously with both Bushes. There was the danger that we wouldn't go forward. Now, again, he's not going to roll them back in general, but the danger is these religious exceptions.
Aside from attending fundraising events like this and voting, what should LGBTQ people do now through 2020 to protest Trumpism?
Get other people to vote. I think the thing to do is to say we've made great progress now, and our friends and our relatives in the fight against prejudice of the people close to us; we've made great progress. But I think what you need to do now if you're an LGBT person is to talk to everybody who says they love you, they're your friend, they value you, and say "You know what, if you love me, you can't vote for people who are going to treat me like crap." So every LGBT person should become an advocate to get other people to vote for candidates who support us. By the way, that's the most effective kind of political campaigning – person to person. Look, if you care about me then you're going to vote to protect my interests against these people who are trying to take them away.
Some people fear potential president Pence more than Trump. What do you think?
They're right. Pence is personally much more bigoted than Trump probably because of the way he interprets religion. Trump's just opportunistic. I think he would be a more dangerous candidate for reelection. There's no question Pence would be worse than Trump.
Pundits have said the Democrats are split – is the rift real or a creation of the pundits?
What rift? Actually, the Democrats are pretty united. … Yes, the press is trying to make more of it about candidates on the left versus candidates more centrist and the answer is, as you would expect in a Democracy, people to some extent reflect their districts. There are some Democrats in districts that are overwhelmingly Democratic with a lot of people who are strongly on the left and they're to the left of Democrats from districts that are more swing districts — but it's not a serious issue in terms of hobbling us. In terms of opposing Trump, the Democrats have been very united.
Sept. 6 Event
The event is hosted by Between The Lines Publishers Susan Horowitz and Jan Stevenson. Along with Michael Einheuser, Jason Misleh, Michael Rowady, Todd Pleiness, Roland Leggett, Dan Vermeersch, Rick Bowers, Dan Treder, Matt Clayson and Kim Ross-Clayson. For more information about Nessel's campaign visit dana2018.com. To RSVP to the upcoming event, contact Michael Einheuser at [email protected].