Saturday wasn’t the first time that Attorney General Dana Nessel was the grand marshal of Michigan Pride.
Five years earlier, she served in that role at the annual LGBTQ festival when she was an attorney fighting the state of Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban, which was ultimately overturned in 2015 by the U.S. Supreme Court. Nessel recalled that history outside Michigan’s Capitol on Saturday afternoon.
“So I have the great honor and privilege of being your grand marshal this year. It’s actually the second time that I’ve been grand marshal,” she noted. “The first was in 2014. The thing about that year is … I was suing the state of Michigan and the Michigan attorney general’s office on behalf of the LGBTQ community so that we could have adoption rights and marriage rights in this state.
“Only now, in 2019, I represent the state of Michigan and I am Michigan attorney general! So that I can ensure that we have a state that actually cares about all people who live here, including our community. We are all Michiganders and we are all entitled to equal protection under the law. Period.”
That won applause and cheers.
Later on at the rally, there was another emotional moment when LGBTQ kids were invited up to the Capitol steps and there wasn’t enough room for everyone to stand.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had two Pride flags hoisted on the Romney Building where her executive office is located across from the Capitol. This is the first time that the executive office building has flown the flags.
Nessel called Whitmer “the most pro-LGBTQ governor” Michigan has ever had.
The attorney general said “it’s amazing that we have so many people in state government who care about our community,” but pointed to her rainbow-colored “Resist” button.
“Well, you might ask, ‘What is there to resist? You are the government now,'” she said. “And that’s true, in part. But the fact is, it’s not all of government. So what I spend a lot of my time doing in the office of attorney general is this: suing the [President] Trump administration. And I will continue to sue up until we have someone new in the White House that actually cares about us again.”
In one such case, Nessel last month joined a coalition suing the GOP administration over its “religious exemptions” health rule that she said could harm the LGBTQ community and others.
Before the rally, there was a parade featuring an array of local businesses, churches and political candidates. The event drew roughly 5,000 people, including Lansing Mayor Andy Schor, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, state Sen. Curtis Hertel (D-East Lansing) and Ingham County Commissioner Ryan Seabolt.
Nessel noted that the LGBTQ community has won marriage and adoption rights, but still lacks protection from discrimination in Michigan.
“That is not tolerable in 2019 and we have to fight against that,” Nessel said.
There’s been a renewed push by lawmakers to add LGBTQs to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, mostly by Democrats. But both state House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) stand opposed. Nessel called that “tragic and … wrong.”
She entreated those attending the rally to stay politically active in 2020.
“If people do not subscribe to the ‘crazy’ notion of equal protection under the law for everyone,” the AG said, “then they don’t deserve our vote.”