In a year-end interview with MLive, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder took the bold step of letting others lead on providing basic civil rights protections for members of the LGBT community. It was a proud moment:
Gay-rights advocates were quick to point out that Michigan law does not currently protect gays and lesbians from workplace or housing discrimination, but they expressed hope that Snyder’s language may have signaled his willingness to update the law.
The Republican governor, sitting down with MLive last week for a year-end interview, said he is willing to participate in talks about the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act but does not plan to lead them.
“I’ll wait for, most likely, a signal from the Legislature to say they’re open to having that discussion,” said Snyder, who generally avoids controversial social issues. “There is some openness likely there. I think the speaker has made some comments along those lines. I’m willing to have that dialogue, but I need a partner to have it with.”
This is the sort of bold leadership that led to Michigan nearly opting out of Medicaid expansion and unnecessarily delaying its implementation for months. It’s the sort of bold leadership that led to making Michigan a right to work state in one day as the legislature passed the bills with no public input or hearings, legislation that he signed the same day it was passed. It’s the sort of bold leadership he took on the issue of adding protections to the LGBT community to the Elliott Larsen Act earlier this year when he said, “I’m staying focused on jobs, kids and seniors at this point. I appreciate legislators looking at lots of issues and if they want to address that, that’s okay.”
The economic benefits of protecting LGBT citizens in Michigan are well-known and might be a place to find common ground with recalcitrant Republicans. But it’s the basic decency and sense of fairness about this issue that ought to drive our governor to take actual leadership on this issue.
That, apparently, is too much to ask.
By the way, when you’re pondering your choice for governor next year, know that there is one candidate who is in full support of amending the Elliott Larsen Act and is willing to show real leadership on the issue: Mark Schauer.