Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has historically avoided choosing sides on LGBT rights. He sidestepped the issue again on Thursday, doing an impressive job of saying as little as possible.
Reporters asked Snyder whether he supported legislation that would extend civil rights protections to include sexual orientation. According to MLive, the governor said he was happy to have a discussion about it at some point, but was waiting for the legislature to act and was too focused on jobs to take a stand on the issue.
But reporters kept pressing him, and MLive captured a remarkable exchange, in which, as liberal site Eclectablog points out, Snyder managed to say basically nothing in 114 words:
Reporter: Is it acceptable in Michigan that someone can be fired from their job because they are gay or perceived as gay?
Snyder: Well again, in terms of people being fired for no good reason, again, that's always an issue, that shouldn't happen.
Reporter: Is being fired because you're gay or perceived as gay one of those issues?
Snyder: Again, you have issues where you want to see people have an opportunity to have a career.
Reporter: But when you say "no good reason," is being gay a good reason to be fired?
Snyder: Well again, that's a broad statement, so it'd depend on the particular facts of the situation. That's a hypothetical, that's very general in that context.
Reporter: People are being fired because they're gay though, that's not hypothetical. An employer can do that. That's not a hypothetical situation, that's a real situation...
Snyder: The question is how should government be involved in that process and how active, so again that's where I'm happy to work with the legislature as they're willing to look at those kind of issues.
Reporter: But you're not going to lead on that issue.
Snyder: At this point in time I've got a number of other things that I've had as priorities.
Michigan currently has no state law protecting individuals from being fired or denied housing for their gender identity, though the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) recommends that the state's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act be amended to include protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.
State Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) introduced legislation last session that would amend the civil rights act, but the bill did not pass.
In a January report, the MDCR said that LGBT discrimination "exists and is significant" and has "direct economic effects on Michigan."
"Police officers, university professors, schoolteachers, store managers, electrical engineers, symphony conductors, and food service staff recounted stories of being denied jobs, tenure, promotions, or of being fired because of their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity/expression," the report states.
According to Unity Michigan, 29 municipalities have enacted ordinances that offer expanded protections to LGBT individuals.
Opponents of expanding the civil rights act include Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan, who told Michigan Radio that expanding the civil rights act would infringe on employers' rights.
“We don’t believe that, for example, a Christian bookstore should be forced to hire some guy who claims to be a woman and wants to wear a dress to work and use the women’s restroom," he said. "We don’t believe that a Catholic school ought to be forced to hire an openly homosexual man as a football coach, for example.”
Lonnie Scott, executive director of liberal advocacy group Progress Michigan, pointed to Snyder's welcoming stance towards immigrants.
“If Governor Snyder truly wants to make Michigan a ‘center for opportunity for all people,’ then he would take a stand against the legal discrimination being faced by Michigan’s LGBT community,” Scott said in a statement. “It’s hard to imagine that in 2013, Snyder doesn’t have a position on this basic human rights issue."
Last month, Synder also refused to take a stance on gay marriage. He told the Associated Press his focus was on "jobs and kids" had kept him from getting involved. Earlier this month, a judge heard arguments in a case challenging the constitutionality of Michigan's gay marriage ban. A trial is set for February.