LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – On June 11, 2023, through Executive Order 2023-5, Michigan’s Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer made history by creating an LGBTQ+ Commission to ensure that Michigan’s LGBTQ+ community is represented at all levels of government, including its executive branch. She announced the creation during a Motor City Pride parade event. The commission was created to address issues facing Michigan’s LGTBQ+ community, including health, safety, and economic opportunity, with the goal of making the state a place where anyone can build a bright future.
The LGBTQ+ Commission was created under the executive power of the governor and in accordance with the Michigan Constitution of 1963. The commission is an advisory board within the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity and was required by the governor to have specific types of members including a tribal member; a member from a rural community; a social worker or mental health professional and an educator or school board member.
Gov. Whitmer said at the time of her announcement creating the commission through her executive order, “As we celebrate Pride, we must continue taking action to ensure that everyone has the freedom to be who they are in Michigan. That’s why I am establishing the LGBTQ+ Commission to focus on health, safety, economic opportunity, and talent retention for the LGBTQ+ community. This issue is personal for me, and I will fight like hell to bring more diverse voices into the decision-making process so we can build a brighter future for every Michigander. While other states are engaged in the business of bigotry, Michigan is standing up for the LGBTQ+ community.”
On November 30th, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced Raúl Hernández Guzmán as the LGBTQ+ Commission Administrator and 13 others as LGBTQ+ Commissioners. The names and information on the commissioners can be found here. They all started their terms on November 30th and their service will expire at the end of November in 2027.
The governor’s press release describes the commission as one that will include representatives from the executive branch of state government, ensuring a diverse range of voices and perspectives. The composition of the commission includes leaders from various sectors, such as education, health, civil rights, and more. Appointed members, chosen by the governor, represent different facets of the LGBTQ+ community, including educators, medical professionals, tribal members, and advocates. The commission is structured to reflect the socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, cultural, gender identity, sexual orientation, occupational, political, and geographic diversity of Michigan.
The press release goes on to say, “Elaborating on its rich history of championing equality, Michigan takes another bold step towards inclusivity today with the first-ever appointments to the newly established commission. Today’s appointees are pioneers and leaders in advocacy, activism, and education in the LGBTQ+ community. They, along with the structure of the commission, reflect the socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, cultural, gender identity, sexual orientation, occupational, political, and geographic diversity of our great state.”
Dakota Torolski, Michigan State Director, Human Rights Campaign, says about the commission, “As we face a National State of Emergency for LGBTQ+ Americans, Michigan has been a beacon of hope for equality under Governor Whitmer’s leadership. From including explicit protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to protecting youth from the harmful practice of ‘conversion therapy’ Michigan is leading by example. Today, implementing the first-ever statewide LGBTQ+ commission is yet another stride toward making Michigan a more welcoming and prosperous place for all.”
The National State of Emergency for LGBTQ+ Americans that Torolski described was declared in June of this year by the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights group. The group’s president, Kelley Robinson, had said at the time, “LGBTQ+ Americans are living in a state of emergency. The multiplying threats facing millions in our community are not just perceived – they are real, tangible and dangerous. In many cases they are resulting in violence against LGBTQ+ people, forcing families to uproot their lives and flee their homes in search of safer states, and triggering a tidal wave of increased homophobia and transphobia that puts the safety of each and every one of us at risk.”
Congratulating the Michigan governor on her appointments to the LGBTQ+ commission includes Gabby Doyle (she/her), Advocacy Campaign Manager at The Trevor Project, who says, “We are thrilled to learn of the diverse individuals who make up Michigan’s historic LGBTQ+ Commission, which includes necessary perspectives from young people and mental health expert voices.” Doyle went on to say, “This group will play a critical role in ensuring the health and well-being of LGBTQ+ Michiganders at an equally critical time. Even as we end a record-breaking year for anti-LGBTQ policies across the country – and anticipate another challenging year ahead – we remain hopeful about the impact this commission will have toward creating a safe, supportive state for all who call Michigan home.”
Kalamazoo’s Erin Knott, Executive Director, Equality Michigan, who was appointed to be one of the commissioners, says, “I am humbled and honored to serve as a voice for LGBTQ+ Michiganders in Michigan’s statewide LGBTQ+ Commission. This historic commission contains an incredibly diverse group of people, who’s collective experience will be crucial as we continue to advance LGBTQ+ rights in our state. I look forward to working with my fellow Commissioners to identify the needs of our community and ensure that our state continues to work towards LGBTQ+ equality and liberation. As we make Michigan more welcoming for LGBTQ+ people and our families, I am confident that more young people will choose to put down roots in this state that we all love.”
Jay Kaplan, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Michigan’s LGBTQ+ Project, says about the commission, “The ACLU of Michigan applauds Governor Whitmer’s establishment of the LGBTQ+ Commission to address rights and inequalities facing Michigan’s LGBTQ+ community. Our state has made significant progress on LGBTQ+ civil rights through both policies and laws, but much work remains. We are seeing unprecedented attacks on LGBTQ+ youth through book bans, Pride flag removal, anti-trans bathroom policies, and the prohibition on preferred pronouns and LGBTQ+ inclusive curriculums. We believe that the Governor’s Commission will play an important role in combatting this backlash and proactively moving LGBTQ+ rights forward.”
Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order concerning the commission says that they are charged to review, develop, and recommend policies, administrative actions, legislative changes, or other approaches to eradicate and prevent discrimination against Michigan’s LGBTQ+ community and its members, as well as to address other forms of inequality. This includes advising and make recommendations to improve and protect the health, safety, and well-being of Michigan’s LGBTQ+ community and its members across all levels of state and local government; promoting LGBTQ+ culture, history, and economic contributions to Michigan through coordinated efforts and advocacy across state government; and attracting potential future residents from the LGBTQ+ community by ensuring that Michigan is a safe place where its members and their families can thrive. The commission must also provide other information and advice to the governor as directed.
Additionally, the commission, according to the Executive Order, may accept donations of labor, service or other things of value from any public or private agency or person.