‘Everything to lose’: Michigan leaders warn about Trump’s threats to LGBTQ rights

lgbtq rights

By Kyle Kaminski

June 6, 2024

Attorney General Dana Nessel is warning about Republican attacks on LGBTQ rights—and how another Donald Trump presidency could turn those bigoted dreams into reality.

LANSING—Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and several state lawmakers gathered in downtown Lansing this week to offer a firm warning to Michiganders ahead of the upcoming presidential election—particularly for those who are celebrating Pride Month and LGBTQ rights.

“Time to wake the hell up. That’s my message,” Nessel said.

Nessel was joined Tuesday by state House Speaker Pro Tempore Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia), Reps. Emily Dievendorf (D-Lansing), Jason Hoskins (D-Southfield), and Jason Morgan (D-Ann Arbor), as well as Dakota Torolski, the state director of the Human Rights Campaign.

Together, they outlined threats that another Donald Trump presidency could pose to LGBTQ rights in Michigan, as well as how Republican lawmakers in Congress and the state Legislature could work to peel back recent efforts to bolster protections for LGBTQ people in Michigan.

Nessel kicked off the press conference by blasting Trump’s “homophobic, transphobic, and very hateful” agenda while in office, and then pointed to what she labeled as the “only” choice on Election Day for Michiganders interested in safeguarding LGBTQ rights for the long-term future.

“The only actual way to save LGBTQ people from being launched backwards—literally 50 years, if not further—is to re-elect Joe Biden, a man who has been our greatest ally, a champion, and a protector for the LGBTQ community,” Nessel told reporters during the press conference. “Our rights are on the chopping block and we cannot afford to let Joe Biden lose this election.”

Here’s the deal:

June is Pride Month—a time where “everyone has the freedom to be who they are and love who they love,” according to an official proclamation issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last week.

The month-long celebration of progress and equality is typically marked with colorful parades, music, and dance. It also serves as a time to recognize the impact that LGBTQ people have had on history. But for Nessel, the first openly LGBTQ person elected to statewide office in Michigan, Pride Month also marks a time to reflect on the fragility of those hard-fought rights—and the importance of voting for candidates who are willing to continue defending them, she said.

“I don’t think there’s an appreciation or an understanding of just how significant the threat is,” Nessel added. “When you have all the rights in the world, it’s easy to disregard and think things were always this way—but they weren’t. And we can go back very swiftly if we don’t have the right people in state and federal office and, especially, in the presidency of the United States.”

Trump’s Record

The Trump administration didn’t waste any time reversing progress toward equality for the LGBTQ community that was made during former President Barack Obama’s administration.

In addition to picking anti-LGBTQ Republican Mike Pence to serve as his vice president, Trump also had every mention of LGBTQ issues erased from the official White House webpage less than two hours after he was sworn into office, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Over the course of his presidency, Trump also rescinded Title IX regulations that protected transgender students at school, banned transgender people from active military service, permitted discrimination against LGBTQ couples in adoption proceedings, and opposed other basic non-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ community—including the Equality Act, which sought to guarantee protections for LGBTQ people under existing federal civil rights laws.

GLAAD, a nonprofit LGBTQ advocacy organization, kept a running tab of Trump’s individual attacks on the LGBTQ community—including more than 200 instances of executive orders, policy ideas, and judicial nominations that negatively impacted LGBTQ people and their rights.

On the campaign trail this year, Trump has remained just as hostile toward the LGBTQ community—including a recent promise to reverse Title IV protections for students in public schools, which were put in place under Biden to protect LGBTQ kids from discrimination.

“We don’t have to guess at what would happen. We have seen it. We don’t have to wonder what it feels like because we felt it. We don’t have to guess at what lack of safety is because we know it, and we don’t accept it. We’re not leaving,” Dievendorf said. “There are few, if any, things more important than protecting our democracy, specifically for our most vulnerable among us.”

A shift in party control at either level of government could also accelerate a host of anti-LGBTQ bills that have been introduced at the federal level, as well as in Michigan. So far, those have been blocked by Democrats in the US Senate, or left to languish in a committee in Lansing.

“While extremist politicians have been focused on moving backwards and attacking our community here in Michigan, we’ve been moving forward—and it didn’t happen by accident,” Toroloski said during the press conference. “It happened because equality voters have been showing up and making their voices heard. When we show up, equality wins. It’s that simple.”

For Morgan, the fight for LGBTQ rights is personal. This week, he warned that electing Trump and other Republican lawmakers who oppose LGBTQ rights could effectively reverse protections that have been put in place under the Biden administration, as well as jeopardize legislative progress that has been made in Michigan since Democrats took charge in 2022.

“Our rights do not get protected and we roll a whole long way backwards if we lose the Democratic House majority this November. And we have a whole lot more to fear if things go poorly at the federal level and Donald Trump is re-elected as president,” Morgan said. “All of this progress we’ve made and that we hope to continue making in the future will be rolled back by an obstructionist GOP that prioritizes an extremist agenda over the wellbeing of communities.”

Progress in Michigan

From expanding protections for LGBTQ people in the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act and banning so-called “conversion therapy,” to updating parentage and surrogacy laws, Democratic state lawmakers have made significant progress in protecting LGBTQ rights since they were elected to take full control of both chambers of Michigan’s state Legislature in 2022.

And with Whitmer behind the governor’s desk, those bills have quickly found their way into law.

Whitmer is also the first governor to march at the Motor City Pride parade, and she made history when she became the first governor to hoist a Pride Flag above a state office building in 2019.

Last year, she created a new statewide LGBTQ commission, specifically to address issues facing Michigan’s LGBTQ community. And she also vowed to veto any anti-LGBTQ legislation that hits her desk—because if Republicans had their way, there would be a lot of bills to review.

Human rights advocates have identified nearly 400 pieces of state legislation introduced across the country that would cause harm to LGBTQ people, including nine bills that have been sponsored by Republican lawmakers in Michigan over the past year. So far, none have passed through a legislative committee while the state Legislature remains under Democratic control.

“We acted swiftly here in Michigan to make sure that we were catching up in terms of rights for the LGBTQ community,” Pohutsky added. “But the downside of moving that efficiently is that we showed our [Republican] opponents exactly how quickly they can undo that work. And not only will they undo it, they will enact harmful and bigoted policies that we have been able to block … We have got to reelect Joe Biden. There is no other option there. We have everything to lose.”

READ MORE: 9 ways Michigan Republicans are trying to rip away LGBTQ rights

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Follow Political Correspondent Kyle Kaminski here.

Author

  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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