DETROIT — Equality Michigan executive director, Stephanie White, issued the following statement in response to Governor Snyder's appointment of anti-LGBT activist Ira Combs to the Michigan Civil Rights Commission:
"Equality Michigan condemns the appointment of Ira Combs to the Michigan Civil Rights Commission in the strongest possible terms. His twenty-year track record of demonizing and vilifying LGBT Michiganders is embarrassing. It should go without saying that someone so committed to depriving a group of Michiganders of their basic civil rights has no business on the Civil Rights Commission. Moreover, Governor Snyder's appointment comes at a time when LGBT rights are at the forefront of the Commission's agenda as they continue to consider the question of whether the Elliott-Larsen Civil Right Acts' prohibition on sex discrimination extends to LGBT Michiganders. Equality Michigan calls on the Michigan Senate to exercise its constitutional advice and consent powers to disapprove this dangerous appointee.
"In his work to undermine and attack the basic civil rights of LGBT people, Mr. Combs frequently relies upon discredited pseudoscience and blatant misrepresentations about LGBT people, their families and their lives. As recently as 2017, Mr. Combs was one of the leading opponents of the City of Jackson's LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance. He has been amicus curiae in anti-LGBT lawsuits, including defending marriage discrimination targeting same-sex couples. He fought the formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance at Jackson High School, despite the fact that the federal Equal Access Act protects such student organizing. The list goes on and on and on. If Governor Snyder was looking for a person more hostile towards LGBT Michiganders, he would be hard-pressed to find anyone who exceeds Mr. Combs record."
ACLU of Michigan, executive director, Kary Moss issued the following statement regarding the appointment:
"At a time when our nation is so divided, the Governor's appointment to the commission of someone who has blatantly opposed the rights of the LGBTQ community is a huge disappointment. We expect more from our elected officials who are charged with protecting and representing all people in this state."
When asked why the Governor would appoint someone who blatantly opposes civil rights for the community, Deputy Press Secretary Tanya Baker said, "The governor appoints people of various backgrounds and experiences to many different boards and commissions. Yesterday, he appointed a Democrat, a Republican and an Independent – as required by law – who will each bring their own distinct backgrounds to discussions and actions by the Civil Rights Commission. Our Appointments Division has no record of recommendations being made for any appointments to the commission by Equality Michigan, however, they have a meeting scheduled with the group next week to review the process and discuss how to work in partnership on this and other important issues facing Michigan residents."
BTL confirmed that White met in person with the Governor's Director of Strategy, John Walsh, on two occasions (Sept 27, 2017 and Dec 4, 2017) and held a few phone calls as well, to discuss a variety of pro-equality policies including discussing the names of potential appointees to the Civil Rights Commission.
"But that's not really the point and the Governor's office should not be trying to dodge their responsibility here," said White. "What really matters to the LGBTQ community is not whether or not any of our preferred candidates were appointed, but rather that a person who is actively hostile against us has been appointed. What we need the Governor's office to address is the lack of qualifications of this nominee. Anyone who works to oppose the civil rights of Michiganders is not qualified to serve on the very Commission that is charged with implementing civil rights laws. That's why we are asking the Michigan Senate to deny his appointment."