Summer is finally getting here! That means Pride celebrations are well underway. Vacations are coming. It is time to just revel in being a member of the LGBTQ community. Time to kick back and just enjoy all the progress we’ve made, right? Not so fast… We have made considerable progress in being treated like people, but our rights are far from secure. We need to elect people who believe discrimination against others, for any reason, is just wrong and will fight for our rights. You are needed for that to happen. It takes all of us. Let me share a personal story to show you what I am talking about.
Twenty years ago, adopting my children meant going to the child welfare agency other gays were recommending as gay-friendly. That agency was in Detroit. It was not at all clear the hometown agencies in Lansing, all faith-based, would approve out lesbian parents. As a social worker, I knew the ropes but knew the risk of being turned down.
Over the years, it got easier, almost routine, for same-sex couples to adopt. Then gay marriage was legalized, and our community was home free on adoption! But, sadly, no. Not long afterward, a few Michigan faith-based agencies pushed our gerrymandered legislature into passing a law allowing them to reject people for religious reasons (read between the lines – LGBTQ parents) as long as they told them of other agencies. I and others testified against the law, but it passed because of who was in the legislature voting. Here’s where you come in. If it had been a different group of elected officials, it would not have passed.
Politics and legal things are slow and complicated, so here’s the short version of what happened next:
1.) The ACLU brought a lawsuit against the law allowing faith-based adoption agencies to not work with us.
2.) Then we helped elect Dana Nessel, an out lesbian, as Michigan’s attorney general and Gretchen Whitmer, a friend of our community, as governor.
3.) Nessel settled the lawsuit, telling the agencies they can’t use Michigan taxpayers’ money if they refuse to serve LGBTQ foster and adoptive parents.
4.) A lawsuit was immediately filed on behalf of the faith-based agencies, pushing back against Nessel’s settlement. That is still being resolved.
So, there it is. We need different laws, which takes different elected officials. Your vote is your voice, so first, always vote. We have some great candidates running for office in Michigan including several LGBTQ candidates. They need help to win. They need your help. Help looks like one or more of these things: your money, even if it’s just a little; your time working on the election starting as soon as you can; and, finally, your vote and encouragement of others to get out and vote for your candidates.
I’ve heard a lot of people ask, “Why bother? My little bit doesn’t change anything.” But it does! Every little bit matters. Every dollar, every hour, every vote counts. Like adding drops of water to a bucket, voices to the cheering crowd at a game or people on your side of the rope in a tug of war, at some point one more drop will push the water over the top of the bucket, one more voice will tip the balance over the sound of the opposing team or one more person on the rope pulls your team past the dividing line in the tug of war. In other words, every person’s contribution adds up, and makes the final difference.
Gretchen Whitmer had 2,266,193 to Bill Schuette’s 1,859,534. Someone had the 1,859,535th vote that put Whitmer past Schuette as she sought to be governor and every vote after that made the win stronger. But it took 1,859,535 people voting for her before she could pass Schuette for the win with that one vote. It took countless people volunteering thousands of hours and donating over $12 Million. Each one mattered.
If you want elected officials who speak for you, do what you can to get them elected. At many Prides and other festivals this year, you will see materials for LGBTQ candidates and others who are allies. Look for the booth for the Michigan Democratic Party, which is supporting multiple LGBTQ candidates or the candidate booths. Sign up to help between now and November 2020. It may make all the difference.