MI-Gov: The Nation, “An Enemy of Civil Rights Just Won the GOP Nomination for Governor of Michigan”

The Nation has a great piece exposing GOP nominee for Governor, Bill Schuette’s (R. MI) awful, bigoted record as Attorney General of Michigan and how he is the farthest thing from being a champion of civil rights:

In 2012, two Michigan residents, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, filed suit over the state’s ban on same-sex marriages and civil unions. As attorney general, Schuette’s task was to defend the state. He could havefocused his argument on a 2004 amendment to the state’s Constitution that defined marriage as only between a man and woman—any federal interference with that, he might have argued, would be an encroachment on the state’s sovereignty. Such an appeal to states’ rights would be sufficiently right wing to maintain his conservative bona fides. Instead, Schuette opted for bigotry: Same-sex couples needed to be excluded from the state’s definition of marriage for the safety of Michigan children.

Schuette invited a group of “expert” witnesses to testify that, among other things, children raised by same-sex couples are more likely to commit crimes. One such expert so lacked expertise that the judge dismissed him before testimony. Another was revealed to have run a bogus study cooked, according to the federal judge, “at the behest of a third-party funder” with the specific aim of endorsing “the traditional understanding of marriage.” Each of the witnesses, the judge determined, advanced “a fringe viewpoint that is rejected by the vast majority of their colleagues across a variety of social science fields.”

Schuette lost in district court, but only after he’d spent $40,000 on these phony experts and, as a commentator at the Detroit Metro Times put it, made “an utter fool of himself” in a “craven attempt to please the religious right.” The case finally got to the Supreme Court when it was folded intoObergefell v. Hodges. In all, Schuette’s campaign against gay rights cost Michigan taxpayers $1.9 million.

And his assault on civil rights doesn’t end with the LGBTQ community. In 2012, Schuette opposed a Supreme Court decision, Miller v. Alabama, that deemed the sentencing of minors to life in prison without parole a form of “cruel and unusual punishment.” In Justice Elena Kagan’s majority opinion , the Court ruled that when imposing penalties on minors, states “cannot proceed as though they were not children.” A federal district-court judge determined that the sentences of inmates tried as minors should therefore be reconsidered: “If ever there was a legal rule that should—as a matter of law and morality—be given retroactive effect, it is the rule announced in Miller. To hold otherwise would allow the state to impose unconstitutional punishment on some persons but not others, an intolerable miscarriage of justice.”

When appeals of the federal district court’s ruling reached the Supreme Court, Schuette filed an amicus brief on behalf of 15 other state attorneys general. Schuette did not, as one might expect, merely point to the bureaucratic burdens of resentencing old cases. He argued that reconsidering the fates of thousands of inmates in state prisons across the country—all of whom were tried as minors—would “undermine the community’s safety.” Schuette based this assertion on the grisly details of a single murder—and with it, effectively argued that 2,000 inmates who were convicted of crimes as minors should die in prison.

It wasn’t the only time Schuette downgraded the rights of incarcerated juveniles. In 2013, seven male inmates reported being raped or sexually harassed as minors by adults, including by prison staff. The plaintiffs sought relief under the state’s civil-rights act. But Schuette’s team repeatedly requested stays as a delaying tactic. A state court judge found Schuette’s litigation strategy “odious,” made in what the court termed a “horrible” and “frivolous” effort to obtain judicial relief to which the state was not entitled. Schuette’s assistant attorneys have also claimed that the minors’ rape testimonies cannot be trusted, because they are either gay or liars. More generally, the attorneys have argued that minors in prison ought to be excluded from the state’s civil-rights act altogether. Schuette’s team advances this reasoning in a state that, in 2009, settled a $100 million class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of 500 incarcerated women who had, like the seven young men, reported being raped or sexually abused.

The young men’s case is now before the state Supreme Court after the court of appeals determined that incarcerated minors are indeed entitled to equal protection of the law in Michigan. This record makes Schuette’s bland assurance that he merely tries to defend the Constitution as sinister as it is absurd. How could his crusade against minors in prison achieve any meaningful gains toward the protection of the Constitution? As NYU law professor Roderick Hills put it, Schuette’s “stubborn resistance to all prison reform efforts is hard to fathom except as blind contempt for prisoners’ welfare.”

If you thought Schuette’s record as Attorney General was atrocious, imagine how bad he would be as Governor. Luckily for us, Gretchen Whitmer (D. MI) is a strong candidate with a real progressive agenda for the state of Michigan:

It is also true, however, that the “establishment” candidate ran on a platform that is pretty far to the left, and much further than mainline Democrats were willing to go just a few years ago. Here’s a brief rundown of Whitmer’s record:

  • Medicaid Expansion: Whitmer served as the Michigan Senate’s Democratic leader during the 2013 battle to expand Medicaid. The state ultimately did expand Medicaid under Obamacare, despite the fact that Republicans held the governorship and the state legislature. Eight state senate Republicans voted with Whitmer’s caucus.
  • Minimum Wage: Whitmer supports a $15-an-hour minimum wage. She also wants to repeal a so-called “right-to-work” law passed by the Republican legislature to undermine unions.
  • Marijuana Legalization: Whitmer wants to legalize marijuana for recreational use — a position she touted, among other places, at Ann Arbor’s annual “Hash Bash.” She also hopes to tax the legal marijuana industry to fund government services such as road improvement and public schools.
  • Reproductive Justice: Whitmer is proudly pro-choice, calling on the state to repeal its 1931 ban on abortions before Republicans on the Supreme Court overrule Roe v. Wade, and to restore funding Republicans cut to Planned Parenthood. She also supports teaching a “‘Yes Means Yes’ consent curriculum” in public school sex-education classes.
  • LGBTQ Rights: Whitmer’s campaign touts her efforts to “expand our civil rights laws to include people of all genders, identities, and sexual orientations.” She also touts her support for “same-sex adoptions and domestic partner benefits.”
  • “Ban the Box”: Whitmer calls for government employers in her state to “eliminate checkboxes on job applications that require potential employees to
    indicate whether they have a criminal background,” a priority for criminal justice reformers who hope to reduce recidivism and ensure that people with criminal convictions are still able to find work.
  • Universal Preschool: Whitmer also promises to “create our state’s first ever
    universal preschool program.”

So let's get ready to win this race. Click here to donate and get involved with Whitmer’s campaign.