Michigan Democrats, Michigan Republicans — June 19, 2012 at 2:01 pm

UPDATED: Democrat Lesia Liss sides with Republicans, says female Dems are “hurting women”


With friends like these…

Tucked inside the Michigan Democratic Party platform is the following statement:

We believe that women should have access to reproductive medical services and professional advice when they need it. We pledge our support for reproductive freedom, giving a woman the right to make her own choices in this matter. But we respect the individual conscience of each American on this difficult issue. We strongly support family planning, child care, and adoption programs such as those in Governor Granholm’s pregnancy reduction initiative.

However, on a vote last week on legislation that will limit Michigan women’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion, six Democrats actually sided with the Republicans and voted for H.B. 5711.

One of these Democrats, the only woman, is Lesia Liss from Warren and, not only did she vote for this legislation, according to Gongwer news service, she is now saying that women like Rep. Lisa Brown, Rep. Barb Byrum and Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer are “making women look bad” (subscription required) and “hurting women”. Additionally, she’s defending her Republican colleagues:

Rep. Lesia Liss, D-Warren, said the dispute over Brown and Byrum not being allowed to speak on the House floor has gotten “out of control” and “turned into a political issue beyond what I could have imagined.” Liss says Republican leaders have been misrepresented in the dispute because they’ve generally allowed substantial debate on topics.

Liss, one of a handful of Democrats to vote in favor of the bill regulating and restricting abortions, said the issue isn’t that Brown said “vagina” on the House floor – it’s how she said it and the context that made it objectionable to some.

That is language right out of the Michigan Republican talking points handbook.

Here’s more:

said the reaction by opponents to Republican leaders’ decision to sanction Brown and Rep. Barb Byrum, D-Onondaga, after Thursday’s debate “isn’t about the legislation. The Democratic Party is using the ‘war on women’ to try to get women to vote; it’s a political ploy.”

“Women need to speak out. I don’t want to see any woman disrespected,” Liss said. “But if you do (speak out), respect the office.”

Liss said the rebuke of Brown and Byrum was relatively mild compared with the way some members have been treated in the past when their comments or conduct offended House leaders.

This is, in fact, incorrect. Never before have legislators been banned from speaking simply because the leadership disagreed with them or didn’t like their tone. Here’s Bill Ballenger, one the foremost authorities on politics and political history in Michigan:

“It’s never happened,” legislative historian and Inside Politics editor Bill Ballenger said. “There is no precedent. There have been altercations in the House and Senate. But the idea of the controlling party, Republican or Democratic, censuring, in a sense, two of its members for speech, literally clamping down on their free-speech rights? It never happened and shouldn’t happen. And, in my view, won’t happen again.”

It strikes me that Liss needs to review the Democratic platform. Democrats, real Democrats, support a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion. They do not vote for regressive legislation that rolls back that access and makes it harder for women to access abortion services. And they certainly do not side with Republicans against their own party, particularly against women who are speaking out on behalf of their constituents.

THIS is not “a political ploy”:

[Photo credit, Chris Savage | Eclectablog]

THIS is women standing up for their rights:

[Photo credit: Anne C. Savage, used with permission.]

Meanwhile, Liss’s husband is quoted in the Detroit Free Press as saying, “When are we going to the Penis Monologues?” Aye, aye, aye…

(The other five Democrats that voted for H.B. 5711 were Charles Brunner, Paul Clemente, Bob Constan, George Darany, Richard LeBlanc, and Roy Schmidt who is not actually considered a Democrat any longer since he betrayed the Democrats and jumped ship last month.)

UPDATE: The Michigan Nurses Association isn’t happy with Rep. Liss. Not at all. They are accusing her of betraying her profession (Liss is an Emergency Room nurse.)

“Lesia Liss is betraying her profession as a nurse by defending leaders who believe women should be silent,” said Katie Oppenheim, a registered nurse at the University of Michigan. “Every good nurse – and most nurses are women – can relate to getting in trouble for speaking up, because we are obligated to advocate for our patients. The idea of a female leader in this day and age saying women should ‘mind their P’s and Q’s’ is appalling. When nurses ‘mind their P’s and Q’s,’ people die.” […]

Liss said in the Capitol newsletter MIRS today that she understands that women need to “mind their P’s and Q’s” and that the uproar over the apparently unprecedented silencing of the two women is an “embarrassment.”

“It’s outrageous that Representative Liss believes that women supporting women is ‘an embarrassment,’” said Oppenheim, who attended the Vagina Monologues performance at the Capitol with thousands of other Michigan residents Monday night. “Frankly, Lesia Liss is an embarrassment to me as a nurse. It’s bad enough that a health care provider voted to endanger women with regressive laws, but for her to speak out in defense of leaders who silence women is reprehensible.”

  • “It strikes me that Liss needs to review the Democratic platform. Democrats, real Democrats, support a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion. They do not vote for regressive legislation that rolls back that access and makes it harder for women to access abortion services. And they certainly do not side with Republicans against their own party, particularly against women who are speaking out on behalf of their constituents.”

    This is exactly the attitude that we need to get rid of. Don’t tell anyone how to be a “real” Democrat. This reasoning is why nothing is getting done in Congress. Do you think that because the Republicans are usually the ones behaving like spoiled children that the Democratic party should, too? Politics is about compromise, and voting your conscience, not about party dogma. I’m very disappointed.

    • Megan

      “Voting your conscience” is not what anyone is elected to do. Representatives/Senators are elected to represent their constituency. “Voting your conscience” is exactly why we’re in this mess today, because it provides justification for the implementation of personal agendas into state (or federal) government.

      • nabsentia23

        Actually, a good representative or senator carefully weighs both the desires of their constituents and their conscience. It’s dangerous to go too far in either direction. Also, voters do want to know the opinions of their representatives when they run for office. It’s one of the ways they decide who to vote for.

        Liss may agree with the bill that passed, but to condone the silencing of opposing lawmakers is pretty sad.

  • I think Penis Monologues are performed by millions of men, 24/7, all over the world.

  • TeacherPatti

    I wish we could just talk about women’s rights without having to defend men’s rights as well. We could have Take Your Daughter To Work Day because it “discriminated” against sons. Okay, so that changed. Whenever you talk about domestic violence, you bet your ass you’d better point out that men can be abused too! And now we need the Penis Monologues? Jesus….

  • Just sent this to every single one of the Dems that voted for this bill:

    It is time for all to ask whose side are you on? People are being assassinated for this Constitutional right. This is one of those rare moments when I say, either you are with us, or you are against us. There is very little grey area about the legality of this right.

    You can be anti-choice and be a Democrat, but only in your personal life. You can’t legislate my medical health and not be my enemy.

    Keep your laws out of my vagina.

    This is not a local issue, this is a fundamental issue. Grandmothers, mothers, aunts, sisters, daughters, and granddaughters are watching you, from sea to shining sea.

  • CaroleAnn

    When is she up for reelection?

    • All House members are up for reelection in November.

      • cryingliberty

        The question is going to be who steps up to the plate to challenge people like this. I’ve noted that Michigan tends to be a state that runs blue at the federal level because of metropolitan areas like Detroit, Ann Arbor, Lansing, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Flint, and the like, but tends to be very, very red at the local level. It doesn’t surprise me one bit that we have “democrats” like Liss going around and hawking the nonsense she is.

        What does surprise me is where she and the others are based out of. All of them come from major metro areas, where one might think there’s a little bit more willingness to be mindful of women’s issues in those areas (with the exception of Roy Schmidt, who we know is a magnificent bastard after his little scam against the people of Grand Rapids).

        To summarize, the six and a half Dems who voted in favor were:

        Chuck Brunner (D-Bay City)
        Paul Clemente (D-Lincoln Park)
        Bob Constan (D-Dearborn Heights)
        George Darany (D-Dearborn)
        Richard LeBlanc (D-Westland)
        Lesia Liss (D-Warren)
        Roy Schmidt (not-really-a-D-anymore-Grand Rapids)

        With the exception of Schmidt, it surprises me that people from these areas would support a state representative with such backward-thinking ideas.

        • These are great observations. I’ll add one more: after the redistricting by Republicans last year, it’s going to be even harder to turn the tide.

          • cryingliberty

            I’m actually frightened by the notion of what the Republican alternative in these districts were when the 2010 elections came around.

            And I’d forgotten about the gerrymandering the Republicans have been doing to try to marginalize Democrat voters since the elections – my concern is that with all of those things as well as the local tendency to run conservative, Michigan as a state really isn’t going to change much over the course of the next few years – and in fact, may get worse before it gets better. We have the largest segregated city in the nation in Detroit here, and we have some of the most virulent conservative voices I’ve ever heard in my short lifetime in our state Representatives along with clowns like Pete Hoekstra.

            I suppose it might be a crazy theory, but I almost wonder if the Republicans are doing what they’re doing to people to simply drive them out of the state – to marginalize, disenfranchise, and silence people they don’t agree with, and make life in Michigan so intolerable for them that they simply leave.

            As my micro-bio on HuffPo says: “You think Michigan’s blue? You don’t live here.”

        • Slacks

          Liss has a primary challenge. Republicans put her in a district with another Democratic incumbent. She will face Jon Switalski in a primary. All the rest are either term limited or unopposed.

  • mavky

    Liss was also on the House’s Health Policy Committee that put forward this legislation. The committee held one brief hearing and did not let 40 women who opposed the bill speak against it. This could have died in committee if it had been properly defeated there. So she has done much damage.

  • Wanna bet that later when hubby dumps her, she’ll have an epiphany? Classic case of Stockholm Syndrome. More to be censured than pitied; we’ll save that for her constituents and patients.

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