In the past week, our state representative in Lansing has raised the issue of Midland’s “community values.” You might wonder if you can go somewhere to read an articulation of exactly what those values might be.
Last year, 100 community leaders were brought together by a partnership of the Midland Area Chamber of Commerce, the City of Midland and Midland Tomorrow to determine how we might best plan for the long-term success of our community. The expressed purpose of this group was “to enhance prosperity in Midland County by gathering key stakeholders to envision our best future through sharing ideas, building productive relationships and aligning economic development efforts.” The process of developing a strategic plan required the group to answer the fundamental question, “What do we know to be true?”
After months of work, a report was issued that can be viewed at the Midland Area Community Foundation website at http://www.midlandfoundation.org/. Among the nine Key Performance Areas was this statement on Diversity. “Midland County is committed to equality and inclusion and welcomes, embraces and accepts all people.”
All people. That includes a commitment to not discriminate against anyone based on their heritage or culture, their physical attributes or their station in society. And in our group discussions, it also specifically included a commitment to welcome, embrace and accept anyone regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Our state representative has recently expressed concern that people assuming new responsibilities in the community might use their new position “to promote a political agenda or bias that’s at odds with our community’s values. When it comes to holding people in positions of public influence accountable, the more public awareness, the better.” I could not agree more.
Representative Glenn, the leaders of this community have already spoken and have already detailed our community values in writing. The public is becoming more aware of your opposition to equality for certain residents of our community. Your strident unwillingness to welcome, embrace and accept your constituents based on their sexual orientation or gender identity is well-documented in your public pronouncements.
You are using your new position to promote a political agenda and a religious bias that is at odds with our community values. Therefore, the citizens of Midland County must hold you accountable for your attempts to influence the public through your homophobic and transphobic agenda. Whatever votes may have happened 10 years ago, or a century ago, have little relevance. The people of Midland County today — your constituents — are telling you to stop. Stop silencing our voices. Stop acting as if you speak for all of us. And stop ignoring our community values.
I also call on the leaders of our city and county to help Representative Glenn understand our community values by clarifying our commitment to nondiscrimination. The time has come to include sexual orientation and gender identity among the classes of people protected from discrimination in our welcoming community. Embracing and accepting our gay and transgender neighbors means protecting them from losing their jobs or their homes because of who they are or who they love.