GOP Candidate for Governor Doubles Down on Support for a ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Law for Michigan

Republican James Craig, a former Detroit police chief, is running for governor. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

By Jason Salzman

April 26, 2022

Opponents call Florida’s law an example of brazen discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community.

Need to Know

  • James Craig, a former Detroit police chief, supports bringing anti-LGBTQ legislation similar to Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law to Michigan.
  • The Republican also said he wants to extend the ban on discussions of sexual identity through middle school, going further than the Florida law.
  • Craig is one of 10 Republicans who’ve vowed to unseat Gov. Gretchen Whitmer; he lost Michigan Rep. Jack Bergman’s endorsement on Monday and now faces challenges to his petition signatures.

MICHIGAN—Republican James Craig isn’t backing down from his pledge to push for a “don’t say gay” law if he’s elected governor of Michigan. 

Craig backs the proposal for a bill that would be similar to a Florida statute, which was signed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis last month, mandating that discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity must not occur in kindergarten through third grades in public schools. Appropriate instruction may occur in upper grade levels.

“It’s not anti-gay; it’s pro-parent,” wrote Craig on Facebook after his stance on the Florida law, called the Parental Rights in Education legislation, was first reported by Newsweek April 12. 

“He’s definitely pledging to support that bill in Michigan,” Marli Blackman, Craig’s communications director, told The ‘Gander on Friday, adding that Craig supports LGBTQ people—a point the Republican has made himself.

But opponents call Florida’s law an example of brazen discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community. Its vague language is aimed at stopping schools from allowing all discussions of LGBTQ-related topics, even with older students, for fear of facing lawsuits, they say.

Jay Kaplan, staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan’s LGBT Project, called Craig’s stance “very disappointing.”

“For the life of me, I don’t understand how you can call yourself a supporter of the LGBTQ community and yet support legislation that will harm the most vulnerable sector of the LGBTQ community, which is our youth,” Kaplan told The ‘Gander. “Everyone supports the idea of parents talking to their children about issues involving sexual orientation and gender orientation, and hopefully that is going to be a positive outcome. But not every child is going to have a parent who might be willing to talk about these issues or be supportive. And schools do play an important role for creating safe and supportive learning environments for all students, including LGBTQ students.”

RELATED: EXCLUSIVE POLL: Americans Reject GOP’s Attacks Targeting Teachers and LGBTQ People as ‘Groomers,’ Oppose Anti-LGBTQ Policies

Craig says criticism of Florida’s law comes from the “woke left.”

“The Woke Left and their media allies frame Florida’s Parental Rights in Education legislation as somehow anti-gay, but that’s false,” the candidate wrote on Facebook. “It gives parents rights over their children’s education in the public school system. I’ll support something similar as Michigan’s next governor.”

In fact, Craig would go further than Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, by extending the ban on discussions of sexual identity through middle school.

Craig, a former Detroit chief of police, is considered a serious Michigan gubernatorial candidate. On Monday, however, he lost the endorsement of Michigan Congressman Jack Bergman, also a Republican. MLive also reported that Craig is facing challenges over signatures he gathered to make the ballot.

If Craig were elected and pushed anti-LGBTQ legislation, the ACLU of Michigan would “of course” oppose it, said Kaplan, saying it raises multiple constitutional issues because the “intent of this law is to silence discussion and acknowledgement of LGBTQ people.”

As it stands, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, stands as a “firewall” blocking harmful legislation from passing out of the Michigan legislature and into law, said Kaplan.

A growing list of politicians, including President Joe Biden, and corporations have denounced the Florida law—among them Disney. Last week, DeSantis signed a measure, passed by the Republican-controlled Florida legislature, to revoke a special taxing district the company enjoys in the state. 

Craig “has not taken a position” on Florida Republicans move to punish Disney for its statements about the Florida law, according to Blackman, the candidate’s spokesperson.

Discrimination is a contributing factor to the high rate of attempted suicide among transgender male teens, according to one study from the American Academy of Pediatrics. More than half of transgender male teens attempted suicide in their lifetime. 

“To those LGBTQ youth in Florida and around the world struggling to find support, know that you are loved exactly the way you are and we will continue to fight for you every single day because your lives are worth fighting for,” tweeted Florida lawmaker Carlos G. Smith, a Democrat who’s the state’s first LGBTQ Latino lawmaker, just before DeSantis signed Florida’s law.

Hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced in the US last year, and over a dozen became law, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Florida’s measure is scheduled to take effect in July.

READ MORE: Critics Say Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Law Would Unfairly Target LGBTQ Kids. A Michigan House Candidate Wants to Bring It Here.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect Craig now faces a challenge over his petition signatures.


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