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by Eric Rader
The coming year will be one of major political change in Michigan. Due to term limits, Gov. Jennifer Granholm cannot run for another term. While the LGBT community (like our state) has seen its ups and downs in recent years, we have had a strong ally in the governor’s chair since 2003, something that could not be said about her predecessor, John Engler.
During her seven years in office, Gov. Granholm has banned discrimination in state employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity, opposed Proposal 2, the 2004 Michigan initiative banning same-sex marriage, and has supported including our community in the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. She has demonstrated diversity in her staff appointments, selecting a number of openly lesbian and gay people to serve at all levels of her administration.
The LGBT community has much at stake in this year’s gubernatorial election in Michigan. Several candidates on both the Democratic and Republican sides of the aisle are running to be their party’s candidate for governor in 2010. As these individuals seek our vote in the August primary, we should examine their records to determine their commitment to LGBT equality.
The Democratic candidates have better records on our issues than the Republican contenders.
Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero has strongly supported the LGBT community in Mid-Michigan and throughout the state during his time as mayor and his service in the Michigan Legislature. Mayor Bernero signed Lansing’s LGBT-inclusive human rights ordinance several years ago, and has enthusiastically welcomed our community to Lansing for Michigan Pride events during his tenure as mayor. He also opposed Proposal 2 in 2004.
State Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith (D-Salem Township) has been a strong advocate for LGBT equality throughout her career in the Michigan legislature, both as a representative and senator. Rep. Smith supports the repeal of Proposal 2 in Michigan. In 2009, Rep. Smith introduced legislation to allow unmarried couples in the state, both opposite-sex and same-sex, to adopt children.
State House Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford) has earned the endorsement of Triangle Pride PAC in the past. Though he is opposed to same-sex marriage, he does support offering legal benefits to gay and lesbian couples. It should be noted that on the issue of reproductive choice, Speaker Dillon opposes the right of a woman to terminate her pregnancy.
Another Democratic candidate for governor, Genesee County Treasurer Dan Kildee, does not yet have a public record on LGBT issues; it’s important that voters seek out more information on his positions before the August primary.
There are several candidates running for governor on the Republican side, including Attorney General Mike Cox, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, Congressman Pete Hoekstra (R-Holland), State Sen. Tom George (R-Kalamazoo), and businessman Rick Snyder. The Republican candidates for governor are generally opposed to LGBT equality, though Mr. Snyder has voiced support for giving some legal rights to gay couples. Attorney General Cox issued a legal opinion several years ago that prevents public institutions in the state from offering domestic partner benefits to their employees; his justification for doing this was Proposal 2.
An examination of their records and promises reveals that none of the current group of Republican candidates for governor would do much, if anything, to advance the cause of LGBT rights in Michigan.
The LGBT community has a lot to think about as the gubernatorial campaign heats up. All voters should do some homework on the candidates; find out who supports LGBT equality in our state and who doesn’t. The upcoming election in Michigan will be crucial in determining what kind of state we will be in the coming years, and it’s important that we choose a leader who will work for all of us.
Stay informed about this year’s race for governor:
Go to the candidates’ Web sites to see where they stand on the issues. Most of the candidates also have Facebook pages http://www.facebook.com and Twitter accounts http://twitter.com.
Full disclosure: Eric Rader worked on Gov. Granholm’s 2002 campaign, and in her office’s public policy division from 2003-2004.