Last week, Rep. Lynn Afendoulis of Grand Rapids introduced a bill that, frankly, is insulting to the LGTBQ+ community and its allies. The bill would make flying any flag above government buildings besides the state flag, governor’s flag, and the American flag against the law.
Bills like Afendoulis’s are not just wrong – they’re homophobic — and they’re an effort to shutter years of hard-won efforts by the LGBTQ+ community to be visible and respected in public spaces.
In an age where LGBTQ+ folks, especially trans people of color, are heavily targeted for hate crimes, flying the pride flag outside of the Governor’s office is a small bit of compassion and solidarity our state can show. In a state where young men in Detroit like Malcolm Drake, who was shot and injured, and Brian Anderson, who was brutally murdered, are attacked just for being gay, flying the rainbow flag is taking symbolic stand against the bigotry that fueled their assailants.
This is especially important to note a bill to amend the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act and grant civil rights protections to the LGBTQ+ community has not been talked about since its introduction by Rep. Jon Hoadley and Sen. Jeremy Moss.
Unfortunately, we can’t say we are shocked by people like Lynn Afendoulis and the GOP who go out of their way to pretend LGBTQ+ discrimination is not alive and well. Promoting homophobia and turning a blind eye to discrimination are ways Republicans show their identity to one another, and dig their heels in when they want to prove their right-wing credentials. House Speaker Lee Chatfield believes that discrimination in Michigan based on sexual orientation is a thing of the past, even though 57 hate crimes based on sexual orientation took place in Michigan in 2017 alone.
This ridiculous bill is nothing more than a distraction from real issues facing Michiganders right now. Michigan is in dire need of an infrastructure rehaul and an education budget that will improve teachers’ lives and put our students back on top, not a Republican temper tantrum over LGBTQ+ solidarity.
Rep. Afendoulis should be ashamed of drafting this bill. Michigan is a place that stands up against blatant bigotry, fights for our LGBTQ+ community, and will continue flying the pride flag with honor.