Redistricting means trouble for LGBT community in Michigan

By |2011-08-18T09:00:00-04:00August 18th, 2011|News|

By Tara Cavanaugh

Gov. Rick Snyder signed a new congressional map into law last Tuesday, and the map has Democrats accusing Republicans of gerrymandering.
Under the new districts, Democrats Sander Levin and Gary Peters, D-12 and D-9 respectively, will compete for the same district.
“It is highly disappointing that Gov. Synder rubber-stamped the Republican gerrymander of congressional districts for the next 10 years in Michigan,” Congressman Levin said in a statement. “I testified against this map in Lansing and I will actively support every feasible effort to challenge the legality of this decision.
“If legal challenges are unsuccessful in overturning this map, I will run for re-election in the proposed 9th District, which contains three-quarters of the district that I now represent.”
Peters has said he also plans to run for re-election.
The new plan also redraws the lines of the 14th District so that it meanders in a zigzag pattern from southwest Detroit up to Pontiac.
Michigan loses a House seat next year, due to Michigan’s population decrease.
“At our peak, we had 19 seats in Congress. We only have 15 today and next year we are going to drop to 14 because Michigan was the only state in the nation to actually lose population over the last decade,” Gov. Rick Snyder said in a statement after signing the new map into law.
The new congressional districts do not bode well for Michigan’s LGBT community, said Mark Brewer, chair of the Michigan Democratic Party.
“It really tilts the playing field in favor of Republicans,” Brewer said, adding that the Republican Party is “hostile” to the LGBT community. “It’s going to make it more difficult for friends and supporters of the LGBT community to get elected in the state legislature. Not impossible, but more difficult.”
Republicans also created the current congressional map ten years ago, because they held the majority of seats in the state legislature then as well.
“It just points out in the end the importance of elections,” Brewer said. “Because Republicans won the elections last year, they get to draw the maps. We have to re-elect our friends, like President Obama, Debbie Stabenow, win some of these seats back next year so we can continue to try to make progress.”
A lot of the gay community didn’t vote in last year’s elections, said Phil Volk, chair of the Michigan Democratic LGBT Caucus. “We have to impress on the LGBT community how important it is to get active politically,” Volk said. “We have to get to our people that aren’t active, and make them feel like the ballot box is the way to go.”
Volk would also like to see the independent voters – which make up roughly 20 percent of Michigan voters – recognize the importance of voting for pro-LGBT-equality candidates. “We’ve got to explain to the independent voters how little we have,” Volk said, “how bad it is for gay people in the schools and in the job places. If they knew how bad it was – most of them have good hearts and they vote.”

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Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.