On Thursday, December 27th, 2018, outgoing Republican Governor Rick Snyder signed Executive Directive 2018-7 which revolutionizes the way bids are procured in the State of Michigan. All new or amended contracts, grants, and loans issued by the State will now only go to companies and corporations that are LGBTQ+ affirming. Governor Snyder writes, “For Michigan to be a leader in inclusive economic development, all State of Michigan departments and agencies… must work together to ensure State government is open to everyone.”
In the coming year, I choose to go unabashedly and unafraid.
Serving on the Kenowa Hills school board and the GVSU Student Senate have been incredibly honoring and I know that I am making a difference in my community. In my early days of school board training, I was often told that ‘your budget is your values.’ This is why I chose to serve on the Finance Committee during my first year and was elected Treasurer of the Board. I wanted to help reflect my values in our budget making process.
That is why I will soon introduce a resolution at the school board to amend Policy 6320 to follow the lead of Governor Snyder and only award new contracts to those companies that sign a covenant stating their support for and nondiscrimination of the LGBTQ+ community. This is the moral and just thing to do and until this policy is changed, I intend to research each company and vote no on contracts awarded to those that are not LGBTQ+ affirming.
At the GVSU Student Senate, while we do appropriate some funds to student groups, I, alongside Vice President of Diversity Affairs Rachel Ibarra and Senator Kelly Dowker, are aiming to fry a larger fish. We want the GVSU Board of Trustees to amend BOT 6.10 to award contracts only to LGBTQ+ affirming companies, just as Governor Snyder has done for State departments and agencies. All public funds that GVSU awards should reflect the values of the University. It is time we move the needle on LGBTQ+ equality.
With these actions, we hope to bring light to the discrimination that still plagues this state and we hope to protect the LGBTQ+ employees of companies that do business with these organizations. In the long run, it is up to the State Legislature to take action and fully expand the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act of 1976 to include LGBTQ+ Michiganders so that all Michiganders are protected.
So why does this make sense for all Michiganders?
Today, all Michiganders face the possibility of being denied healthcare, having housing applications rejected, being fired from their jobs, etc. for their membership in the LGBTQ+ community or their perceived membership therein. Yes, you read that right. If your boss perceives you as gay, you may be fired and have no legal protections here in Michigan. The status quo threatens all Michiganders. It is time to pass LGBTQ+ protections and ensure that all public dollars are being awarded to companies that give everyone a fair shot at the American dream.
Eric-John Szczepaniak is a passionate public servant focused on building agency and ownership in communities. Visit ericjohn.org for more!