By Sharon Gittleman
Not all of last week’s election results brought glum news for LGBT people and their friends. While gay marriage was roundly defeated by people in nearly a dozen states, several races in Michigan offered ample cause for celebration – and big hopes for the future.
“I think there was a little bit of shining light in the election,” said Ferndale City Councilmember Craig Covey. “I was particularly proud, in the city of Ferndale, we had a record turnout and the vote was 2 to 1 against Proposal 2. We also reelected openly gay County Commissioner David Coulter by a 2-1 margin.”
Nearly 58 percent of Royal Oak voters also cast their ballots against the anti-marriage constitutional amendment, while close to 78 percent of Huntington Woods residents opposed the measure.
Covey said he thought the country would swing back to the left in four years, after voters see the results of conservatives’ efforts to manage the war in Iraq and deal with the economy on the homefront.
“Gay people have made more progress in the last 20 years than in our whole history,” he said. “One election doesn’t turn around 20 years of progress.”
Grassroots political efforts aimed at creating safe welcoming neighborhoods is the LGBT community’s best response to the year’s disappointments, Covey said.
Dave Woodward’s victorious campaign for a spot on the Oakland County Commission also brought a smile to Covey’s face.
“I was very pleased to see Marie Donigan win a seat to Lansing,” he said. “She’s a friend of our community and a great lady.”
Donigan said her stands on issues like education, jobs and health care helped propel her to the state house, representing Royal Oak and Madison Heights residents living in Michigan’s 26th district.
“I treat everybody as equals,” she said. “I don’t have a straight agenda or a gay agenda.”
Dave Coulter will serve his second two-year term on the Oakland County Commission, representing voters in Ferndale, Hazel Park and south Royal Oak.
“I truly believe time is on our side and attitudes toward our community are changing for the better despite what happened on Nov. 2nd,” said Coulter. “We’ve made huge advances in equal rights for gay people – in non-discrimination polices and general acceptance of gay lives.”
Political pundits who blame the LGBT community for Senator John Kerry’s presidential defeat are making a big mistake, Coulter said.
“The vast majority of people in this country aren’t anti-gay, even though they might be opposed to gay marriage. People support domestic partnerships and gay people being treated fairly,” he said. “Marriage was too much for some people. The right will overplay their hand if they think Americans are more anti-gay than that.”
Increased community development, better public transportation and a call for more funding for parks and recreational opportunities in older cities were a few of the issues Coulter emphasized in his re-election campaign.
“I think the silver lining is that Proposal 2 was a referendum on gay marriage not on gay people,” he said. “People in Michigan still believe gay people should be treated fairly and still accept people in office like myself.”
New Oakland County Commissioner Dave Woodward said he thought Proposal 2, “wrote discrimination into the state constitution.”
“We need to continue to make progress and educate people,” he said. “We need to rise up, regroup and reorganize and continue dialogue with our friends and neighbors.”
Woodward said he would work to provide uninsured county residents with affordable health care, focus on smart growth instead of urban sprawl and implement good government practices and greater community participation.
The landslide re-elections of State Representatives Chris Kolb (D-Ann Arbor) in Washtenaw County’s 53rd district and Andy Meisner (D-Ferndale) in the 27th district in Oakland County was good news to Triangle Foundation Executive Director Jeffrey Montgomery.
“Let me say although I don’t know anyone who doubted Andy and Chris would be re-elected, the fact they were are great beams of light in this dark landscape,” said Montgomery. “They are both phenomenal leaders representing their districts and as a bonus, they are among the most consistent helpful leaders when it comes to issues that affect our community.”
Montgomery said he was insulted by some political commentators’ claim that voters’ devotion to “moral values” was the spark behind President George Bush’s victory.
“If you’re in favor of gay marriage, that is a positive moral value,” he said.
Claims that the Bible provided the ultimate rationale for limiting marriage to one man and one woman were equally ludicrous, in Montgomery’s view, especially since polygamy is a common practice found within its pages.
“Beyond that, if someone wants to use that book for a sacred reason, that’s fine,” he said. “But that has no basis for how we govern a society based on civil law.”
Michigan residents’ solid support for Kerry was more positive news for residents in our state, Montgomery said.
“There’s one small consolation knowing the voters did what they could to get rid of this terribly unfortunate President,” he said.