Thursday, May 10, 2012

Michigan, what's up with your stand on gay rights?

The Guardian has an interactive graphic Here describing the amount of protections and rights that gay folks have in the United States, state by state, and it turns out that Michigan has one of the least legal protections for gays in the U.S., on  a statewide  level. Now, being from Michigan, I know that folks there are about a hundred times more liberal than people in Mississippi, who have enacted approximately the same amount of legal protection for gays and lesbians. In fact, Michigan is not only liberal but more liberal than its immediate neighbors Ohio and Indiana. So what could be going on?

I think that although folks in Michigan are very liberal, they're not politically active. When I was living and growing up there, there was no active political scene anywhere in Metro Detroit. There were scattered groups here and there at best, and people in general were very disconnected from State politics. Why that was is unclear, but it might be a reaction to the hyper politicized days of the '60s and early '70s, and to the shift in cultural politics that lead to the creation of the Reagan Democrats, who were shop workers in the early '80s that voted against their class interest by supporting the Republicans. They did it because they objected to the social policy of the Democrats, specifically their pro-civil rights platform. It was a movement with deep roots in the racial division of Metro-Detroit after the '67 riots. But the Reagan Democrats were three decades ago.

A return to politics in Michigan, if it hasn't happened already because of the crushing affects of the recession, is overdue. The potential is there, but people just have to realize it. Michigan was the core battleground of union rights and union activity in the first half of the 20th century, and it can be a force for change again.

Does anyone else have insights about the lack of statewide legal protection for gays in Michigan?

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I would like to add that voting is not a reliable route for a society to enact civil rights for the few. An example is the 2004 ballot proposal put to Michigan voters, which resulted in 63 percent of voters voting to amend the state constitution to ban recognition of same-gender unions. The conservative State Supreme Court four years later interpreted this new amendment as a ban on public entities of state government (e.g., state schools) from offering health insurance coverage to same-sex partners of employees.

Perhaps in four years, an effort to repeal this amendment might succeed, although it is a clear risk to bring civil rights to a popular vote. Beyond this state option, a Federal Court (likely the U.S. Supreme Court) has the power to rule Michigan’s constitutional amendment is a violation of the U.S. Constitution.