Champion for equality says Michigan Legislature should focus on real problems, urges Michiganders to voice opposition to bigoted bill.
Never one to mince words, Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05) is particularly blunt in his condemnation of the “bathroom bill” introduced by State Senator Tom Casperson. I spoke with Rep. Kildee the day after Senate Bill 993 was introduced in the Michigan Legislature.
“The Michigan Legislature is either sinister or cynical,” he told me. “Either they plan to enact it, in which case we need to take action now, or they’re so cynical they’re willing to incite hate even though they don’t plan to act on it.”
SB 993 forces transgender students to use separate restrooms from the rest of the student population, according to a statement issued by Progress Michigan. This discriminatory bill would force transgender students to out themselves to their fellow students and could open the door to more harassment and bullying — problems transgender students already face because of campaigns of misinformation and fear that marginalize and vilify transgender people.
Immediately after the bill was introduced, Rep. Kildee said in a statement that the Michigan Legislature has more important things to do.
Of all of Michigan’s pressing problems — fixing our crumbling roads, improving our schools, ensuring access to safe drinking water — Senator Tom Casperson and Republicans in Lansing have apparently decided the most urgent need facing our state is to police bathrooms in search of a problem that does not exist. Their priorities are completely wrong and in disagreement with the majority of Michiganders.
When I spoke to the Congressman, he expressed frustration that the Michigan Legislature was “looking for ways to further divide us when we have big issues to overcome in this state that should be their preoccupation.”
They should spend every minute they have on fixing the Detroit Public Schools — all of Michigan’s public schools — and on Flint, for God’s sake, where 100,000 people have been wronged, including 9,000 children under the age of six who were exposed to abnormal levels of lead in the drinking water. It’s a public health emergency, yet the Michigan Legislature still hasn’t taken action. But they find the time to pander to the most extreme voices by offering legislation that’s based on hate.
Congressman Kildee — who was born and raised in Flint, a city that’s in the district he represents — also sees the serious toll legislation like SB 993 could have on transgender and gender non-conforming students, such as Reid and Hunter, who are fortunate enough to have supportive families and school environments. Many, many other transgender students aren’t so lucky.
“The thing that often gets missed is that we’re talking about our fellow brothers and sisters,” Rep. Kildee told me. “These are people we live with every day — our fellow human beings, who have always lived among us. They deserve the same dignity that should be afforded to every human being on the planet.”
As the Congressman points out, the LGBTQ community is finally winning some of the rights they have always deserved. He urges Michigan not to move backward.
To treat certain individuals as if they’re lesser than others is a morally bankrupt concept. For anyone who gives it some real thought, it’s hard to imagine treating a fellow human being as if they’re somehow less than us when they’re not. It’s a painful thing to watch unfold in my home state.
Although Michigan Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof has said SB 993 is not a priority, Rep. Kildee isn’t inclined to take comfort in any such assurances.
“We’ve seen this Legislature and Governor Snyder do lots of things they said weren’t ‘on their agenda,'” Rep. Kildee says.
That’s why he urges Michiganders who believe in equality for everyone to speak out — especially if they’ve never been vocal in their support for LGBTQ rights before.
“Elected officials like me and organizations that fight for equality are expected to speak up,” Rep. Kildee says. “What’s really important is for people who aren’t involved so much, but are privately outraged, to speak up. This is an important moment in history. I think folks will feel better about the lives they lead themselves if, at a time when our transgender brothers and sisters are under attack, they weren’t silent.”
[Photo from outside the U.S. Supreme Court during arguments for the 2015 same-sex marriage case courtesy of Congressman Kildee’s office.]