FRIDAY, Jan. 29 — Michigan Information and Research Services, Inc (MIRS) is reporting that a controversial ballot initiative to amend the state constitution to include LGBT civil rights will end.
MIRS reports that Dana Nessel will tell WKAR-TV’s Tim Skubick that the campaign is “being suspended.” Nessel is the Detroit-area lawyer best known for her representation of the DeBoer family which led to a favorable U.S. Supreme Court ruling for marriage equality last year, and she, along with GOP attorney Richard McLellan, co-chair the Fair Michigan ballot initiative.
“2016 presented a real, unique opportunity to give Michigan voters the chance at long last to update and expand our constitution to prevent discrimination and ensure everyone is treated fairly after too many years of legislative inaction,” said Nessel. “We had the right language at the right time, backed by detailed research that demonstrated Michiganders of all political affiliations, backgrounds and communities across the state would have been behind this effort. Unfortunately, politics got in the way and created barriers to long-term success.
“All worthwhile civil rights battles must start somewhere and this effort is no different. Unfortunately, women and the LGBT community will not receive equal protections under the constitution in 2016, but this does not mark the end of my efforts to amend the constitution to guarantee that everyone is equal. I am committed to solving this critical problem in Michigan,” added Nessel.
Nessel’s announcement in October that she would run a ballot initiative to extend protections for the LGBT community through an amendment to the constitution was met with controversy. The state’s leading LGBT organizations, as well as national organizations, questioned the wisdom of such a move. The fear was that while polling data showed support for LGBT equality was high, when voters were subjected to negative messages regarding the community, that support collapsed.
That was particularly true in regards to the transgender community, and activists feared a political smear campaign similar to that used in Houston to kill a local human rights ordinance. That campaign painted the transgender community as predators and threats to women and children.
Nessel and her supporters were frustrated by the delays in the legislative process and saw the ballot process as a quick path to victory. But others noted that while the legislative path was slow, headway was being made. Equality Michigan earlier this month announced a multi-year, multi-prong strategy to flip the legislature to supporter of the initiative. A loss at the ballot, it was feared, would damage that work.
MIRS also reported that the business community, which has been a key ally in getting Republican Gov. Rick Snyder on board, was unwilling to support the initiative with the cash necessary to win at the ballot in November.
Despite repeated requests by City Pulse media partner Between The Lines, Sara Wurfel, a spokesperson for Fair Michigan, refused to provide an accounting for how much money the group had spent for signature collection. The group had until July 11 to collect the 315,654 signatures of registered voters needed to qualify for the ballot in November.