I Love You': Gov. Whitmer Affirms Michigan's LGBTQ+ Community Before Leading Detroit Pride Parade (Exclusive)

Chris Azzopardi

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer seemed as delighted and grateful to finally be at Motor City Pride as the LGBTQ+ Michiganders who attended the delayed event, which took place on Sunday in Detroit. The in-person event was pushed back to September from June due to COVID. 

"It feels good!" Whitmer told Pride Source enthusiastically at the parade before giving opening remarks alongside Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist. "I think the hardest part of the last year has been not being able to get together and celebrate Pride, but also focus our energy because the fight continues. So it's great to be out here and feel this energy."

Whitmer, the first governor to fly a Pride Flag outside a State of Michigan building, told Pride Source she recognized Pride as a time to honor progress and maintain momentum to reach full LGBTQ+ equality nationwide and within the state of Michigan. That's why this year Whitmer and Gilchrist formally proclaimed June as Pride Month

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at the Motor City Pride parade in Detroit on Sept. 19. Photo: Andrew Potter

"Pride means a state [where] every person is valued and respected and protected under the law," she told Pride Source at the parade. "Pride means opportunity for all, no matter how you identify or who you love. Pride means recognizing how far we've come and yet continuing to lock arms and see this through and [that] we've got work yet to do." 

That work includes extending civil rights protections to LGBTQ+ state employees. "I want to do that for every person in the state of Michigan," Whitmer said, "but that takes legislation and this legislature's not been as progressive as we would like them to be."

One piece of legislation that's particularly troubling is a discriminatory revision to the state school code affecting transgender students' participation in sports. Additionally, earlier this summer, Whitmer issued an executive order prohibiting the use of state funds for conversion therapy on minors, declaring in her order, "Being LGBTQ is not a disorder, disease, or deficiency. Treating it as such through conversion therapy is not only ineffectual, but may cause significant long-term harm, including anxiety, depression, internalized homophobia, lowered self-esteem, and self-blame, as well as alienation, loneliness, social isolation, loss of social supports, and suicidal behaviors."

Also of particular interest to Michigan LGBTQ+ residents is the potential expansion of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The Michigan Supreme Court is set to review an appeal filed by Michigan AG Dana Nessel later this year

"We've staked out action unilaterally, but ultimately we want to codify full civil rights protections in the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act," she told Pride Source. 

Gilchrist added that inherent in the message of Pride is "making sure everybody knows that they are welcomed and valued." 

As an outspoken LGBTQ+ ally and the highest-ranking elected official in Michigan, Whitmer summed up her fight for LGBTQ+ equality by posing a simple question: "Is there affirmation for all of us? We cannot assume the work is getting done. We have more to do. We have to protect what we have so we have security in this country."

Before the parade took off down the streets of Detroit toward Hart Plaza, Whitmer donned a leather jacket emblazoned with printed pronouns "We," "They/Them," "He/Him" and "She/Her." Her voice projecting far out into a sea of LGBTQ+ people, she left them with her own inclusive affirmation that said so much in just three words: "I love you."