President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, is known as a billionaire who's used her sizable fortune to fund conservative causes. But she's no homophobe, claims her gay political adviser Greg McNeilly.
Speaking Friday at an Equality Michigan gala where he received the Changemaker award, McNeilly said his boss defended him against an antigay politician back in 2003. After speaking out against a proposed, and ultimately successful, constitutional amendment banning marriage equality in the state, McNeilly — at the time, the executive director of Michigan's Republican Party — said a state senator confronted him in his office.
“'Are you using the Republican Party and your office here to stop this ballot initiative because you’re gay?'” McNeilly recalled the senator asking, according to The Detroit News. "We will get you. We will expose you. This is not over." He did not identify the senator by name.
McNeilly said he called DeVos, then the chairwoman of the state GOP, who was incensed. She allegedly asked for the senator's phone number, and McNeilly said he never heard from the politician again.
McNeilly has been married to attorney Doug Meeks since 2014. He said last year that DeVos and her husband support his marriage and his LGBT activism.
"They reflect the West Michigan experience I've had, which has been people going out of their way to show affirmation," McNeilly told MLive, a website for several Michigan newspapers.
While DeVos has rightly been criticized for her favoring of charter and private schools over public education, her LGBT rights background is more muddled. While her father-in-law, Amway cofounder Richard DeVos Sr., and other relatives funded several antigay causes, including the Michigan marriage amendment, there's no clear indication that Betsy DeVos herself contributed. DeVos family members have given at least $500,000 to the National Organization of Marriage, a longtime opponent of LGBT equality. But according to Raw Story, they also donated $400,000 to victims and survivors of the mass shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando.