Yesterday at the Mackinac Policy Conference on Mackinac Island, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder did an about-face on his position regarding civil rights for members of the LGBT community. His actions or, rather, lack of actions on behalf of the LGBT community are well-known so the abrupt change is cause for considerable skepticism.
Snyder spelled out his new-found interest in LGBT civil rights in an interview on Michigan Public Radio’s Stateside program. During the interview, host Cynthia Canty asked Gov. Snyder about this sudden shift in his position:
Cynthia Canty: Just this morning Governor Snyder sent the strongest signal yet that he would look favorably on adding LGBT to Michigan’s civil rights law… [Governor Snyder,] you say this is something you want the legislature to take up but is this something you would actually endorse?
Gov. Snyder: Well, I appreciate them bringing up the issue and, as I’ve said, I don’t believe in discrimination and I think it would be great if they actually, if the legislature looked at the issue later in the year.
You probably noticed that he didn’t answer the questino and did not commit to endorsing it.
Let’s be clear. This wasn’t his “strongest signal yet” on this issue. It is his ONLY signal on this issue that was anything but negative. It’s clear that Snyder is facing tremendous pressure from business leaders who see LGBT discrimination as harmful to their bottom line. As a tool of well-funded corporate interests, his turnaround is clearly a response to his financial backers’ demands. In other words, public policy in Michigan is being set by corporations. Again.
This should surprise nobody.
There are two things to consider in this situation. The first is that, if Governor Snyder was truly interested in safeguarding the civil rights of LGBT Michiganders, he would immediately order his Attorney General Bill Schuette to end his fight to prevent same-sex couples from being married in our state. A federal judge has ruled that our ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and every penny spent by Schuette to fight it is both a waste of our tax dollars and a strong signal that the Snyder administration views LGBT people as not equal to heterosexuals and worthy of being discriminated against and denied basic civil rights. Full stop.
It’s pretty damn hard to square that with Snyder’s claim that he “doesn’t believe in discrimination”. His actions speak far, far louder than his pandering words, designed to please his corporate funders. If he were sincere, which he is not, he would end his attack on same-sex couples who simply wish to make the same commitment to each other through marriage that heterosexual couples are allowed to make and to enjoy the myriad benefits that come with being legally married.
Until he does this, it’s clear that his claim that he “doesn’t believe in discrimination” is proven to be the phony, pandering lie that it is.
Second, this is a safe bit of ground for Gov. Snyder to plant his re-election flag. He knows quite well that the Michigan legislature, full of religio-conservative ideologues, isn’t going to add LGBT rights to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act any time soon, much less during an election year.
This is the same group that happily passed legislation that forces women to buy rape insurance.
This is the same group that squandered millions upon millions of state tax dollars by delaying the expansion of Medicaid in our state.
This is the same group that has stomped on the rights of workers to bargain collectively for wages and benefits.
This is the same group that has slashed funding for public education and toiled tirelessly to direct the remaining education funds into the coffers of private, for-profit charter school corporations.
In short, no matter what he says, he has little fear that Michigan Republicans will act on his call to add civil rights protections for LGBT Michiganders to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.
What he’s counting on is that people will see his pandering words as sufficient and will convince people that he is a moderate. It’s the same approach he used with his phony “nerd” schtick in 2010. However, he’s already proven that he is unwilling to show actual leadership on this and that he has almost no ability to impact what the legislature does. In terms of actual leadership of his party on behalf of the residents of this state, Rick Snyder has come up short every single time.
So, let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that Rick Snyder is in any way a leader in the fight for LGBT civil rights. He is nothing more than a pandering politician, saying what he needs to say to get reelected, even if it means adopting his Democratic opponent’s positions time after time.
It’s up to US to hold him accountable.
[CC Snyder photo credit: Michigan Municipal League | Flickr]