Most governors with a history of poisoning an entire city of Black people, an administration full of corruption and ineptitude, and with a laundry list of pro-corporate policies that have harmed the state in myriad ways would probably spend their final months in office being as non-controversial and quiet as possible. Not so with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. Despite his legacy of the Flint Water Crisis, the epic corporate outsourcing experiment failures, the decline of our state’s schools under his watch, and the combined catastrophes of Emergency Management and the Education Achievement Authority, he has decided to have at least another bite at the rotten Apple of Fail.
This past week he appointed a known homophobic bigot, Bishop Ira Combs, Jr. of Jackson, to the state’s Civil Rights Commission:
Gay-rights activists and some state lawmakers said they were shocked by one of Gov. Rick Snyder’s appointments to the Michigan Civil Rights Commission last week — a minister who opposes same-sex marriage.
Bishop Ira Combs Jr., — who heads the Greater Bible Way Temple in Jackson and was among those opposing his own city’s new ordinance that bans discrimination against gays and lesbians — was unapologetic about his beliefs.
Combs said that “the gays that are complaining” about his opposition to gay rights “are economically advantaged,” earning more than most Americans.
“I think that’s good, but they’re not my focus because they’re not disadvantaged,” as are other minority groups, he said when reached by phone at his home Sunday night in Jackson.
The eight-person Civil Rights Commission investigates civil rights complaints and recommends new laws to the governor.
Equality Michigan, our state’s premier LGBTQ advocacy group pulled no punches in their response to this outrageous move:
Equality Michigan condemns the appointment of Ira Combs to the Michigan Civil Rights Commission in the strongest possible terms. His twenty-year track record of demonizing and vilifying LGBT Michiganders is embarrassing. It should go without saying that someone so committed to depriving a group of Michiganders of their basic civil rights has no business on the Civil Rights Commission. Moreover, Governor Snyder’s appointment comes at a time when LGBT rights are at the forefront of the Commission’s agenda as they continue to consider the question of whether the Elliott-Larsen Civil Right Acts’ prohibition on sex discrimination extends to LGBT Michiganders. Equality Michigan calls on the Michigan Senate to exercise its constitutional advice and consent powers to disapprove this dangerous appointee.
In his work to undermine and attack the basic civil rights of LGBT people, Mr. Combs frequently relies upon discredited pseudoscience and blatant misrepresentations about LGBT people, their families, and their lives. As recently as 2017, Mr. Combs was one of the leading opponents of the City of Jackson’s LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance. He has been amicus curiae in anti-LGBT lawsuits, including defending marriage discrimination targeting same-sex couples. He fought the formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance at Jackson High School, despite the fact that the federal Equal Access Act protects such student organizing. The list goes on and on and on. If Governor Snyder was looking for a person more hostile towards LGBT Michiganders, he would be hard pressed to find anyone who exceeds Mr. Combs record.
When asked why on earth he would appoint someone who has no interest in the civil rights of LGBTQ Michiganders, Gov. Snyder issued this statement:
The governor appoints people of various backgrounds and experiences to many different boards and commissions, and that includes the Civil Rights Commission, where appointees bring their own distinct backgrounds to discussions and actions that work to protect the rights of Michiganders.
Apparently having the “you don’t deserve civil rights” perspective on the Civil Right Commission is important to Gov. Snyder.
Please keep in mind one thing: The only thing worse for Michigan than Gov. Rick Snyder would be Gov. Bill Schuette. As bad as this decision is – and it IS bad – Bill Schuette’s notorious homophobia would set us back decades in terms of civil rights gains for minority communities.
Hold that thought firmly in your mind for the next nine months.
[Caricature by DonkeyHotey from photos by Anne C. Savage for Eclectablog]