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Nessel, House LGBTQ+ Caucus warn that Trump and GOP endanger hard-fought rights 

‘Time to wake the hell up,’ Michigan attorney general tells community and allies

By Jon King, Michigan Advance - June 06, 2024
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Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel joined with leaders from the state House LGBTQ+ Caucus on Wednesday to highlight the threats they say LGBTQ+ Michiganders face if Republicans take power. 

“Pride month is usually a time of great joy for the LGBTQ community, as it should be,” said Nessel. “But I guess if I had to say succinctly what my message is to the LGBTQ community, to all our allies and supporters, it is really this: Time to wake the hell up.”

Gathered at the Michigan Democratic Party headquarters in Lansing, Nessel, a Democrat, was joined by state Rep. Jason Morgan (D-Ann Arbor), who is also the Michigan Democratic Party vice chair; House Speaker Pro Tempore Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia); and state Reps. Emily Divendorf (D-Lansing) and Jason Hoskins (D-Southfield).

Their collective message was that while the rights of LGBTQ+ Michiganders face a rollback if Republicans returned to power in the Legislature, they would be especially vulnerable if former President Donald Trump was allowed to again occupy the Oval Office.

“I don’t know if I’m the only one who remembers what it was like to have Donald Trump be the president of the United States,” Nessel said. “… I remember it and it’s one of the reasons actually that I ran to be attorney general of this state, because I wanted to push back against Trump’s homophobic, transphobic and very hateful agenda.”

Nessel, who is gay, ticked off several items from that agenda including appointing judges “who seek to overturn every positive court decision that has ever afforded our community rights,” as well as gutting protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in health care, education and the military.

“The only actual way to save LGBTQ people from being launched backwards literally 50 years, if not further, is to reelect Joe Biden, a man who has been our greatest ally, a champion, and a protector for the LGBTQ community,” she said.

Morgan, who is also gay, said he was “incredibly proud” of the progress that was made to protect Michigan’s LGBTQ community, including expansion of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA) to add protections against discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation, and a ban on conversion therapy for minors.

“The Michigan GOP led by MAGA Matt Hall in the Michigan House has opposed the protections that we fought for at every turn,” said Morgan, referring to the House minority leader. “And if given the chance, they will roll back these rights and drag our community back decades into the past. The MAGA Michigan GOP is afraid of people who don’t seem like them, those who love differently, or those whose families don’t look like theirs. And they vote like it every time.”

A request by Michigan Advance for comment was sent to Hall’s office, but was not returned.

Dakota Torolski, the Michigan state director at the Human Rights Campaignsaid his organization last year declared a national state of emergency for LGBTQ+ Americans in response to “MAGA-fueled attacks on our community, including a record breaking introduction of anti-LGBTQ plus bills in state legislatures, more than 500 in 2023 alone.”

Torolski said there was a stark, but simple choice for voters this year.

“Do we elect candidates who are focused on attacking our communities and taking away our fundamental freedoms, or do we elect candidates who have been focused on investing in our communities, enshrining explicit protections for sexual orientation, gender identity in our civil rights law, protecting youth from the harmful practice of conversion therapy, ensuring equality for LGBTQ+ plus families to have parentage, protecting reproductive freedom, and that’s just to name a few.”

Dievendorf, who previously served as Equality Michigan’s executive director before being elected as Michigan’s first openly nonbinary lawmaker and one of the first openly bisexual legislators, emphasized that the dangers are not just figurative, but also literal.

“While Donald Trump was initially running for office, because of our relationships with the FBI and our local law enforcement and the civil rights department, we saw hate change,” they said. “Not that it wasn’t there before, but that it became permissible and so did the actions that have been taken increasingly against all of our most underserved and underrepresented and vulnerable communities since then.”

Dievendorf said what they are really fighting against is the normalcy of hate and that one of their larger disappointments has been the sense that LGBTQ+ allies don’t necessarily understand the level of threat that they live under simply because they advocate for basic human rights. 

“The average person does not assume that we’re getting threats regularly or that I’m told not to walk back and forth to work because people tell me they’d like to drive, run me over, or stop their car, shoot me, and then run me over,” said Dievendorf. “This is not an unusual thing. This is nothing that makes me different from any of my colleagues.” 

Nessel, meanwhile, said another Trump term is a chance to add more arch-conservative justices to the Supreme Court.

“I’m not just talking about Obergefell,” she said, referring to the 2015 decision that legalized gay marriage. “In addition to that, I think a lot of people are worried about Lawrence v. Texas being overturned, something that would literally make same-sex relationships illegal if it were to be overturned, including here in the state of Michigan. That could happen. And I don’t think that there’s an appreciation or an understanding of just how significant the threat is and how immediate the threat is, as well.”

Pohutsky, who is bisexual, said she loses sleep thinking about how much progress would be lost if Republicans return to control in either Lansing or the White House.  

“Not only will they undo it, they will enact harmful and bigoted policies that we have been able to block,” she said. “… We have everything to lose.”

This story was originally published by the Michigan Advance


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