Press

Anti-GLBT Ballot Initiatives Fail in Four Michigan Towns in Major Defeat for American Family Association

Date: 
August 11, 2000

Religious right activists failed in their efforts to place initiatives attacking the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community on the November ballot in four Michigan communities this week. Initiatives failed to make the ballot in Royal Oak, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids and Traverse City, while the results of a similar attempt in a fifth city, Grand Ledge, are not yet known.

The outcome is a major defeat for the Mississippi-based American Family Association, whose Michigan chapter had backed the initiative effort. In Royal Oak, Grand Rapids, Grand Ledge and Traverse City, the initiatives would have repealed all local laws outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation and would have prohibited local voters from adopting such laws. The Kalamazoo measure would have repealed domestic partners benefits for city workers.

“Today we celebrate along with the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities in Michigan,” said NGLTF Executive Director Elizabeth Toledo. “But we are mindful that the year 2000 is still a record year in terms of the number of anti-gay measures on the ballot across the United States. And we know our adversaries in Michigan will try again next year to place anti-GLBT initiatives on the ballot.”

Already this year, California voters have approved a ballot measure outlawing same-sex marriages performed in other states. And voters in Ferndale, Michigan, voting on the day of Michigan’s Republican presidential primary, defeated a measure that would have outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation by just 114 votes. This November, voters in Nebraska, Nevada and Oregon will decide the fate of anti-GLBT ballot measures, while voters in Maine will vote on a favorable measure that would extend existing nondiscrimination law to sexual orientation.

The defeats in Michigan this year represent the second blow for the religious right political movement. Earlier this year, organizers in Dade County, Florida backed by the Christian Coalition failed to gather enough signatures to force a referendum on whether to overturn the county’s civil rights law.

Had the right-wing organizers in Michigan succeeded, the ballot initiatives would have focused even more attention on a state that already is considered crucial in the November elections. In addition to being a swing presidential state, Michigan this year has one of the most tightly contested U.S. Senate races in the country, in addition to several closely contested U.S. House races.

“The fact that these groups were not able to gather enough signatures to put this issue on the ballot shows that Michigan remains a place committed to liberty and justice for all,” said Heather MacAllister, Field Organizer at the Michigan-based Triangle Foundation. MacAllister worked closely with activists in the local communities to oppose the religious right’s efforts.

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.