Still reeling from the June 24 Supreme Court decision striking down a woman’s right to govern her own body, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her daughters sat down with a Washington Post reporter July 9 to discuss the potential societal and personal fallout from that decision. All three women lamented the loss of a woman’s right to choose and, of particular note to Pride Source readers, daughter Sherry, 20, came out as a lesbian.
On the day the Supreme Court ruling came down, Gov. Whitmer appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court to quickly determine that the state’s constitution allows for a woman’s right to choose. If the court disagrees, the state’s draconian 1931 outlawing abortion will take effect.
This decades-old law does not, as all three Whitmers, including daughter Sydney, 18, know, make exception in cases of rape or incest. It does contain a provision granting an exception to “preserve the life” of the mother. To what end, experts are still debating.
Under the law, having an abortion would be a felony. Doctors who perform abortions and those receiving them could face up to four years in prison. Even worse, analysts say, people who use medication for self-abortions could also be charged under the law.
It all touches a little close to home for Gov. Whitmer. It was nearly a decade ago when the then state rep shared that she had been raped as a freshman at Michigan State University in 1989. The revelation came amid a heated exchange in the legislature over limits on abortion rights in the state.
Despite her sexual orientation, Sherry said she planned to start taking birth control pills. “To be fair, I was hesitant because I am gay,” she told reporter Ruby Gramer while sitting with her mom and sister on the front porch of the governor’s state-owned home on Mackinac Island, adding that the risk of unwanted pregnancy “is not a thing that’s on my mind all the time.”
But times are changing and without the right to abortion should she need one, Sherry said she sees it as a necessary precaution. “I live on a college campus,” she said. “There are people out there who would force me into conceiving. It’s a scary thought, but I’ve made the decision.”
The Washington Post interview marks the first time Sherry has publicly come out on her own, though her mother announced last month at Ferndale Pride that she had a daughter who was a part of the LGBTQ+ community. The governor went a step further at a private brunch for LGBTQ+ supporters following the Motor City Pride parade where she told the crowd that her “eldest daughter” was a lesbian.
Whitmer has long been a supporter of LGBTQ+ rights. In an interview with Pride Source at last year’s Motor City Pride, the governor shared that she first became an ally to the LGBTQ+ community when she found out another member of her family is gay.
“It was a gay cousin who a lot of people in the family weren’t quite sure how to reach, what to do,” Whitmer told Pride Source. “It was seeing that that really made me feel like I’ve got to be a proactive ally, not just one that wishes others well. I want to be a part of making it better.”
Gov. Whitmer also told the Post that she had made peace with the fact that should abortion become illegal in Michigan, and should the Supreme Court overturn marriage equality, which according to a 2004 state constitutional amendment would immediately make it illegal in Michigan, her daughters might settle outside the state.
“I want to be here with you,” said Sherry to her mom. “I would really be sad if I couldn’t. If I would have to make that choice.”
If she did, the governor said she would understand. “As a parent — not as a governor — I would encourage them to go where they can live their fullest, truest lives.”
This ad, from Gov. Whitmer’s 2021 campaign, features daughters Sydney and Sherry.