Opposition to Expanding ELCRA
Homophobia has reared its ugly head in Michigan politics yet again in the 2020 election cycle. This time, it's Jody LaMacchia, Democrat and openly LGBTQ candidate for Michigan's 46th State House District, who announced in a press release dated Oct. 15 that her opponent, incumbent Republican John Reilly, was recorded last year at a public event making remarks such as "where do you draw the line" in reference to amending the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include LGBTQ people. Reilly also stated he didn't think landlords should have to rent to "those people" — i.e. members of the LGBTQ community.
While Reilly did not target LaMacchia personally, his words reveal exactly where he stands on LGBTQ rights, not to mention civil rights in general, which he spells out at the end of his comments.
Here's the audio and a partial transcript from the July 15, 2019, in-district coffee hour:
Constituent 1: … [Can you tell us what] your feelings are on the rights of LGBTQ members of our community and how to support them in terms of not being discriminated against in terms of housing, in terms of education, in terms of employment and in terms of what services they can access in our community?
Rep. Reilly: Well, we've got laws for that right now, right?
Constituent 1: No, we don't. We don't have laws…
[Another voice: "Elliott-Larsen"]
Reilly: Oh, OK, so you want to add that … so I would not be in favor of that.
Constituent 1: Why would that be?
Reilly: Well, because I think that … because pretty soon … where do you draw the line on that? You're saying that now we've got a group called the LBGT, right, those folks … now a landlord is saying who … he has to allow those people to reside where his place is—
Constituent 1: So would you say that it's ok for somebody to discriminate against a Christian for being employed or a landlord didn't want to rent to Christians? How would you feel about that?
Reilly: Basically, I'm probably more of the thinking we have too many laws right now.
Constituent 2 joins the conversation, comments that this is no different from discrimination against people of color in housing: "Do we tell people, sorry, we have too many laws already?"
Reilly says he would have to look at a particular bill.
Later, at the 4:10 mark
Reilly: We remove the ability for people to have the liberty to basically live because of all the laws that we have.
Constituent 2: These people don't have the liberty to live because you haven't protected them with a law. This is the same—
Reilly: What liberties do they not have?
Constituent 2 explains that LGBTQ people are not a protected class under ELCRA, whereas others in protected categories are protected.
Reilly: 'Cause the law says that's not something that's granted as a liberty.
Constituent 1: Following your reasoning, would you vote to eliminate protections for people of color, people of different religions — would you vote to eliminate all of protections for anybody?
Reilly: I would have a tendency more to go that way, yes.
"Reilly asks, 'Where do you draw the line?' and I think we have a simple answer," said LaMacchia in the statement. "We redraw the line to include everyone and afford everyone equal protection under the law. We include sexual orientation and gender identity as worthy of the same safeguards against discrimination. We give everyone equal opportunity and the freedom to love whomever they choose and look the way they like."
In a Facebook post, LaMacchia explained her reason for making the recording public now. She said it had to do with the tremendous effort she's seen by Fair and Equal Michigan to collect signatures in support of a proposal that would expand the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include LGBTQ people. A conversation she had with Mel Larsen, co-author of the Act, went into her decision, too.
Between The Lines followed up with LaMacchia and she talked further about sharing the recording. It turns out that recording is not the only one with such comments by Reilly.
"Honestly, I've received more recordings and I've really kind of chalked those up to … just validation of how far out there he is," LaMacchia said.
But when LaMacchia considered Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to the Supreme Court and the possibility that Barrett would vote to overturn the Obergefell decision, it was like "a confluence of events" that prompted her and her wife, Sam, and her communications director to dig up the recording and listen again.
"Our jaws were on the floor," LaMacchia said.
She felt she had to act.
"Silence is complicity," she said.
Reilly the Outlier
"In my experience living here [in Oxford], that is not the vibe in this area even that they consider to be very conservative," LaMacchia said. "People have always been very accepting and welcoming of me and Sam. But I know that people who have ever voted only Republican that are voting for me also would be horrified about someone that believes this way that represent them."
She said it's important to expose elected officials who hold such beliefs.
When asked how she felt about the comments, LaMacchia said she was shocked. Then, "I don't know why I am shocked about it. It's not something that we don't hear about occasionally, someone saying something like this."
LaMacchia said when she talks to people, they often don't know who their representatives are. She believes that not only should people know but they should feel confident their elected officials have their best interests at heart.
"Especially the LGBTQ community," LaMacchia said. "Especially kids that are just wrestling with their own feelings and trying to decide whether to have the bravery to come out or fear that they're not going to be accepted — or they aren't accepted when they come out. These beliefs that [Reilly] has, when he says 'those people' and the way that he says it — these are things that hurt the LGBTQ community.
"Whether it's racism or misogyny, or discrimination against our community — whatever it is, we have to call that out and get back to a place in our society where it's just not OK anymore," she added.
The abovementioned press release was ostensibly an announcement of Larsen's endorsement of LaMacchia. That's notable for a few reasons. Larsen is not only a Republican, he was also chair of the Michigan Republican Party and he represented a district that included Oxford, where LaMacchia and her wife now reside.
"For 20 years, I have been trying, along with others, to get gender identity and sexual orientation added to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to ensure protections for that group of people," Larsen stated in the release. "I understand that Jody supports the expansion of the Civil Rights Act to include gender identity and sexual orientation and her opponent does not. Therefore, Jody has my full support.
"As one of the original authors of this law, I can state unequivocally the intent was to offer the broadest possible protections against discrimination of any kind," he continued. "It's clear today that Michigan's landmark civil rights law does not go far enough."
The 46th State House District comprises Addison Township, Brandon Township, Orion Township, Oxford Township and a portion of Oakland Charter Township.