Shortly after I took office in 2015 as a State Representative in Michigan, the GOP leadership put up a vote to allow state-funded adoption agencies to deny services based on religious convictions – a move that would undoubtedly result in discrimination against our community.
During the contentious debate, something happened that wasn’t possible in previous terms: LGBTQ voices were finally being heard on the House floor about the issues that impacted us directly.
Still, the bill passed.
When session adjourned following the vote that day, a Republican colleague from one of Michigan’s most conservative districts unexpectedly came up to my desk. This representative apologized to me for supporting the bill.
No member of the Michigan House could continue to blissfully escape the consequences of their decisions that harm the LGBTQ community without knowing someone that those decisions impact.
Harvey Milk said that just being out and visible can “break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions.”
We have many challenges in Michigan, from a 1976 Civil Rights Act that excludes protections for LGBTQ Michiganders to that 2015 law that discriminates against loving parents. And there are many different approaches to resolve them.
Harvey Milk’s call to action, even forty years after his assassination, is still our community’s best way to make gains: “Coming out is the most political thing you can do.”
I am visible in the House – and, come January, will be the first out person to ever serve in the Michigan State Senate – because Harvey Milk demanded it, and because he blazed a trail to make it possible.
It isn’t easy. Society forces us to carry a heavier mantle because of who we are and who we love, but through that, we grow stronger.
The voices of out LGBTQ Michiganders have changed the conversation at the State Capitol. Every year, we get a step closer to creating the more fair, just and equitable society that Harvey Milk fought and died for.
-Michigan State Representative Jeremy Moss