LGBT — January 29, 2016 at 11:23 am

Fair Michigan ends effort to put LGBTQ civil rights to a vote in Michigan


Citing a lack of adequate funding, Fair Michigan, a coalition of groups and individuals headed up by civil rights attorney Dana Nessel and that included noted Republicans like Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, Gov. Snyder’s former press secretary Sara Wurfel, and Lansing attorney and political mover-and-shaker Richard McClellan, has ended its attempt to put the civil rights of LGBTQ people to a vote in Michigan. Nessel revealed the news during a taping of Tim Skubik’s “Off The Record” program this morning:

The proposal to add civil rights for LGBT people to Michigan’s constitution will no longer aim for the 2016 ballots, its organizer announced during a taping of public television show Off The Record Friday morning.

“We are suspending our 2016 campaign, but I can assure you this is not the end of Fair Michigan,” said organizer Dana Nessel, best known for arguing against the state of Michigan’s prohibition on same-sex marriage in a court case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court and ultimately legalized it nationally.

Fair Michigan was aiming to prohibit things like housing and employment discrimination based on gender, gender identity, sex or sexual orientation.

Asked why the group was pausing its efforts, Nessel cited finances.

“It’s a financial issue. There’s no question that it’s a very expensive proposition to try to get a ballot proposal and particularly one that is a constitutional amendment,” Nessel said.

Fair Michigan’s decision to use a ballot initiative to change the state constitution rather than taking a legislative approach was in opposition to LGBTQ activist groups like the ACLU and Michigan Equality. During a public forum in Ann Arbor last fall, Amy Hunter, the coordinator of Michigan ACLU’s Transgender Advocacy Project, explained their reasoning:

Amy Hunter talked about the importance of laying the proper groundwork before moving forward with letting Michigan voters vote on the civil rights of a woefully misunderstood minority group. “One of the things that is foremost in my mind no matter what path we take is that we have created a culture here in the state of Michigan where good policy can take root and flourish,” she said. Hunter said that we sometimes neglect to “till the ground sufficiently so that a cultural shift can happen in that community,” something that will be essential with this effort since transgender people are the least understood of those who are under the LGBTQ umbrella. “There’s a lot of nuanced education that has to happen,” Hunter said, emphasizing the need to put our resources into “intensive public education”.

Hunter finished by saying, “[The ACLU] will go all in on whatever path makes the most sense and can give us a roadmap to victory that is fully inclusive of the LGBTQ community and that does not, in the process, put communities that are already at risk at further risk of violence or harassment.”

Nessel seemed to indicate that Fair Michigan will be helping with that education effort by “organizing into a 501(c)3 and a 501(c)4 to educate and advocate for LGBT civil rights.”

[CC LGBT graphic: The Limpa-Vias Blog]