With the primaries now in the rear-view mirror and the November general election firmly in the headlights, here are some key takeaways for the LGBTQ+ community from Tuesday’s results.
1. Democrats taking control of the Michigan House will require flipping formerly red seats to blue.
Perhaps the best chance of that happening is in Oakland County’s 20th District, where Noah Arbit easily won a three-way race for the Democratic nomination. The 26-year-old, who is gay, told supporters Tuesday night that his campaign is about transparency and openness, whether related to budget priorities in Lansing or people’s personal right to dignity.
“To every gay kid, every LGBTQ kid in this state or in this country, I want you to know: There are many people who will try to tell you who you are or what you can be,” said Arbit. “Do not listen to them. Don’t ever change for anyone. Don’t waste this one precious life being anything other than that fearless, truest you. Take it from someone who wasted far too much time hiding. And suffering. I have walked in your shoes, I have fought your fights. And now I will fight for you.”
2. Voters have a chance to erase previously unmovable barriers.
That might best be exemplified by the victory of Southfield City Councilman Jason Hoskins for the Democratic nomination to Oakland County’s 18th District. If he wins in November, as is expected, Hoskins would be one of the first out LGBTQ+ people of color in the state legislature. He’s also ready to hit the ground running, having worked for almost a decade as a staffer for two Southfield state legislators and helping to craft legislation aimed at reducing commercial blight and promoting open government.
3. There will be a clear choice at the top of the ticket.
Republican businesswoman and conservative commentator Tudor Dixon won the Republican primary for Michigan governor on Tuesday, pitting her against Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. This is a no-brainer for LGBTQ+ advocates, as Dixon has championed legislation prohibiting schools from sponsoring drag queens and removing any discussion about sex and gender from elementary schools. In her victory speech, Dixon immediately launched gender-based attacks in an attempt to distance herself from Gov. Whitmer. Dixon referred to Gov. Whitmer as a “birthing parent” and “not a real woman.”
To be fair, all of the GOP candidates held similar (if not worse) positions, but the importance of returning Whitmer for a second term is now crystal clear. The same can be said for reelecting both Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. Their GOP counterparts have signed on wholeheartedly with the rabidly anti-LGBTQ+ agenda put forth by the Republican Party.
In the case of Nessel, her dogged support for universal human rights stands in stark contrast to Republican AG candidate Matthew DePerno, who has openly advocated for a state’s rights point of view that would jeopardize not only the right to contraception, but to gay marriage as well. Meanwhile, Republican Secretary of State candidate Kristina Karamo has said churches that hang a rainbow flag are “agents of Satan,” while also making claims connecting premarital sex and the LGBTQ+ community with pedophilia and bestiality.
4. Representation matters, especially at the local level.
Genesee County Board of Commission Chair Dominique Clemons won his nomination fight for the 4th District. Clemons, who describes himself as a bisexual, cisgender man, also serves as Director of Staff Development and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for the Michigan House of Representatives Democratic Caucus. In addition to serving as board chair, Commissioner Clemons also sits on the Genesee County Metropolitan Planning Commission, Genesee County Parks Board, Flint Cultural Center Foundation board, and is Co-Chairperson of the Genesee County Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Ad-Hoc Committee.
5. The best revenge is winning.
Openly gay Washtenaw County Commissioner Jason Morgan, who was rejected last year by Senate Republicans for the Northern Michigan University Board of Trustees, is now the Democratic nominee for the 23rd House District, which covers much of downtown Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan’s central campus. He’ll face Republican Richard Sharland of Plymouth in November, but has a good chance of winning the district following redistricting, which would place him in the same legislature that seemingly rejected him based on his sexuality.
6. Despite progress for LGBTQ+ candidates, voices of hate and division will remain.
The best example of this is the GOP primary win of 22nd District State Senator Lana Theis. While the Brighton Republican was able to beat back a challenge by ultra-right wing candidate Mike Detmer, Theis has repeatedly proven herself to be openly hostile to the LGBTQ+ community.
She sponsored transphobic legislation to prohibit trans athletes from participating in high school sports, and recently compared her political opponents to child molesters in the name of raising money for her primary challenge. Having been pushed to the extreme right, there is no indication she will moderate her views if returned to the Michigan Senate as expected.
7. Strong voices in the wilderness have a real chance at assuming leadership roles.
In 2018, Jeremy Moss became the first-ever out LGBTQ+ candidate elected to the Michigan Senate, where he currently serves as the Assistant Democratic Leader. In that role, he has been an outspoken advocate for diversity and inclusion, but more importantly, a vociferous opponent of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and legislation coming from Republicans.
Most recently, Moss openly took on Senate Leader Mike Shirkey, a Republican, who tried to add offensive language to Moss’ proposed LGBTQ+ Pride Month Resolution. Moss said it was a deliberate attempt to sabotage legislation that the Senate had passed just the year before.
“The Republican leadership regresses and again throws Pride Month back into the trash heap,” said Moss from the Senate floor. “I guess the cruelty is the point. … The Republican leadership will never stand for LGBTQ equality. Their agenda is to make you fear the gay agenda, but I am not the cause of your problems. My community is not the cause of your problems.”
Should Democrats take control of the Michigan Senate, which is entirely possible following the citizen-led redistricting process, Moss and Shirkey could find their roles essentially reversed, with Moss in a legislative leadership role from which he could do much more than point out GOP hypocrisy, but direct legislation to counter it.
Recently, Pride Source profiled and reported on several candidates running in state races from the LGBTQ+ community. Here’s how they did.
Michigan Senate (statewide race):
Jeremy Moss: State District 11 (Won)
Kelsey Heck Wood: SD13 (Lost)
Michigan House of Representatives:
Find your state district here.
Ricardo White: HD11 (Lost)
Alex Manwell: HD11 (Lost)
Emily Stivers: HD75 (Lost)
Emily Dievendorf: HD77 (Won)