After attempting to change the language in a resolution recognizing June as LGBTQ+ Pride Month, Republican leaders in the Michigan Senate have again refused to put it to a vote.
The GOP majority originally postponed consideration on June 7 of Senate Resolution 149, sponsored by Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield), the first openly gay senator in Michigan. When Moss again sought to bring the measure to the floor last week, Sen. Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton) attempted to refer it to the Government Operations Committee, a legislative dumping ground from which bills rarely return.
Democrats objected, noting that the exact same resolution had been passed by the Senate just last year. Similar resolutions have already been recognized by both Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and by President Joe Biden.
However, Nesbitt forced a party line vote overruling Democrat’s objection, essentially condemning the resolution to legislative limbo.
Later that same day, the Senate approved a resolution by Sen. Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte) commemorating "the 68th anniversary of the addition of the words 'under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance,” but not before Moss took to the floor to question why GOP leaders were actively thwarting a resolution they passed just the year before.
“The Republican leadership regresses and again throws Pride Month back into the trash heap,” said Moss. “I guess the cruelty is the point. There are LGBTQ people like me in all sectors of Michigan economy who only wish to contribute, be good neighbors and not have the government interfere with their freedom to live their lives."
Moss also said Republicans were choosing to exploit divisiveness, noting that in 2022 they had called people “groomers” and protested drag queens.
The reference was to recent attempts by some GOP senators to fundraise off of anti-LGBTQ+ attacks, including Sen. Lana Theis (R-Brighton) naming Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) in an April email that appeared to accuse her of “grooming” children because she supports LGBTQ+ rights. McMorrow responded in a floor speech calling the baseless accusations “hateful.” The video that went viral and won the praise of leaders like President Joe Biden.
In the end, Moss said the fact GOP leaders wouldn’t even consider adopting his resolution, “says a lot more about you than it does about us."
In a statement, Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) said he had made suggestions to Moss he believed would make the resolution “more reflective of the diversity of opinions in the Senate.” Shirkey said when they couldn’t reach an agreement, the resolution was sent to committee.
However, Moss told reporters that Shirkey had sought to change not just the language of his resolution, but also its meaning.
In addition to proposing to remove language about the "slow and insufficient" government response to the HIV/AIDS crisis, Moss said Shirkey wanted to add a disclaimer that would have said: "Though not every citizen in Michigan agrees with the lifestyle of the LGBT community, it is agreed that every life is special, precious, unique and loved by the the creator, and each person is created in God's image."
Moss, who had attempted in 2019 and 2020 to get the resolution passed before finally achieving success in 2021, says he refused to add the language to the resolution as it implied being gay is a choice.
Jay Kaplan, a staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan’s LGBT Project, told Pride Source that this episode is reflective of the current political climate.
“The bottom line is the legislative majority in Michigan in both the House and Senate have not been willing to move forward or to support anything that is pro-LGBTQ,” said Kaplan. “So this is kind of consistent. Changing the language is pretty disingenuous. It's about recognizing Pride Month, it's not talking about lifestyles or people's religious beliefs. It's just recognizing that all peoples should be afforded dignity. I think it's also a reflection about why elections are important and the people certainly have a voice this November. The reality is we haven't been able to pass any pro LGBT legislation for some time because of who's in control of the majority. They haven't allowed (pro-LGBTQ bills) to even get committee hearings in which to move forward.”
As for Shirkey’s proposed changes, which Kaplan called “completely offensive,” he says that was likely the point all along.
“I would venture to say that probably Senator Shirkey knew that by inserting that kind of language, that the resolution wasn't going to go anywhere,” Kaplan said. “And that was a way to prevent it from moving forward.”
Moss’ resolution noted the struggle of the LGBTQ+ movement with a “slow and insufficient government response to assist those with HIV/AIDS and the ongoing effort today to protect the rights of the LGBTQ community,” as well the victories including “the historic Obergefell decision in 2015 which affirmed marriage equality nationwide and the recent Bostock decision in 2020 that upheld federal employment protections for the LGBTQ community.”
The Obergefell decision in particular is believed to be in jeopardy of being overturned if the U.S.Supreme Court rules against Roe v. Wade, as is expected later this month.
Kaplan says he can’t emphasize enough the importance of the elections this November.
“We've made some progress in terms of LGBTQ rights administratively in our state and all of that's at stake in the November midterm election,” said Kaplan. “With regards to the issue of LGBTQ rights, there's going to be some significant differences between the different candidates, and it's going to be real important that everybody make their voice heard. No one should be sitting this one out.”