TIM SKUBICK: Lansing keeps gay community waiting
The state’s gay community has been waiting for 30 years, so what’s another 11 months?
In 1983, then West Michigan GOP Rep. Jim Dressel introduced a bill to expand the state’s civil rights law to include the LGBT community to protect it from housing, sexual orientation, job and all other forms of discrimination.
Mr. Dressel is long gone, but the issue remains and actually shows some signs of inching toward fruition. Inching would be the operative word there.
It can be reported that a bi-partisan legislative coalition is taking shape but instead of moving on it now, the decision is to wait 11 months.
Is it because the legislative agenda is so packed?
Is it because lawmakers have to go deer hunting and enjoy the holidays and don’t have time?
Or is it because 11 months is after the August primary election next year when most legislators will be well on their way to being re-elected and the apprehension about embracing gay rights and facing potential voter backlash is reduced?
You know the correct answer.
“You do it when the timing is right, and the timing is not right right now. The people (legislators) aren’t ready.” That from Jim Murray who runs AT&T in Michigan. He is also the self-described “quarterback” working in the huddle to get everyone to the goal line.
He will not confirm that the August primary is the reason for the delay, but two other key players in this drama do. Mr. Murray will only say, “Rushing it to just rush it to do it isn’t the right way to do it, and we’re going to try to do it when the time is right.”
Privately some conservative Republicans have confided that they are inclined to vote yes, but have concluded, “they don’t want to come out right now.” No pun intended.
Critics of the legislative process could argue, if this is the right thing to do, why don’t they just do it now and not worry about their own political necks?
That notion, while admirable, defies the political reality in this town, i.e. you don’t vote on stuff that can get you un-elected. Think funding for roads, building a bridge and now this. As the GOP Speaker Jase Bolger likes to say this “me-first” attitude does not apply to every issue, but on this one, it does.
But even with the 11-month wait, this expansion of the civil rights law is not a slam dunk, although they are trying to build a business coalition to convince reluctant Republicans to do this.
One person they won’t get is Rep. Tom McMillan (R-Oakland County).
“We haven’t seen any instances of discrimination,” the conservative lawmaker argues. “What we have seen is instances of when these laws are imposed, there is discrimination against Christians…we see that the bullying (on this issue) actually comes from the LGBT community.”
Leaders in the movement counter they have a host of discriminatory examples to prove Mr. McMillan wrong.
But all this remains hush-hush because no one wants this to become part of the 2014 election year dialogue back home. The theory apparently being what the voters don’t know, won’t hurt them and if there is discrimination against gays, they will simply have to endure it for at least another 11 months.