Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s 2023 State of the State speech hit all the expected highlights — the economy, education and infrastructure, in particular, but it was her hard-hitting comments on LGBTQ+ rights that came as a welcome surprise.
The governor’s speech was something of a victory lap. Not only is she overseeing a state where her party holds power at both the executive and legislative levels — Democrats took over both chambers of the house for the first time in four decades in November — but many of the newly elected are making history. Whitmer gave a shout out to newly elected Speaker of the House Rep. Joe Tate (D-Detroit), the first Black man to hold the speaker role and Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids), the first woman to hold the majority leader role.
Whitmer vowed to work with the legislature on a wish list of Democratic-influenced issues impacting inflation, education (though she notably did not touch on recent culture war issues impacting Michigan schools) and economic growth. As expected, she reiterated her frequent campaign promise to repeal the 1931 state law banning abortions, which was overruled by Proposal 3 in November.
The governor was equally consistent on her call for expanding the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. “Let’s repeal outdated laws restricting who you can marry,” she said. “Let’s expand the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act so you can’t be fired or evicted for who you are or how you identify or who you love. That’s your business.”
Luke Londo, the first out LGBTQ+ Michigan Civil Rights Commissioner, cheered the governor’s comments on Twitter, echoing Whitmer’s comment on this issue — ”Bigotry is bad for business.”
Protecting freedoms through the civil rights act is “good economics,” she added.
Whitmer wasn’t vague on how she might capitalize on the potential positive economic impact of branding the state as inclusive to the LGBTQ+ community. “I’ll go to any state that restricts people’s freedoms and win business and hardworking people from them,” she said. “I’m looking at you, Ohio and Indiana.”