Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pure Discrimination

I spent a good portion of the month of November trying to convince my co-worker Kevin to take his annual pre-Christmas shopping trip to Michigan, over three hours away, rather than his usual one and a half hour trek to Buffalo, NY. I told him the Michiganders were very friendly, the deals were better, and the area nicer. Besides, I explained, he could get a quality hotel for a very reasonable price as the economy isn’t great in Michigan and they are doing everything they can to boost tourism.

I do spend a lot of time promoting Michigan as a tourist destination. I am always gushing about the gorgeous lakeshore areas on the west side of the state, the beautiful wine country near Grand Traverse Bay, the friendliness and warmth of the people, and the great deals available for travel in an economy that relies heavily on tourism but is struggling because of the other reliance—the auto industry. Most Ontarians are now familiar with the Pure Michigan commercials on the radio and the billboards designed to attract their tourist dollars to a beautiful place just as short drive away.

My pride in my home state is something I have trouble hiding. I am constantly telling Canadians that there is so much more to Michigan than Detroit, and advising them to check out some of the other parts of the state when they are looking for a long-weekend getaway. The more I am away from Michigan, the more it becomes idealized in my mind, as is true with any relationship—absence makes the heart grow fonder.

But as with other relationships, my relationship with my beloved home state is currently going through a rocky period.

Lately, I have picked up a new hobby, which is making jewelry out of coins. I find this activity enjoyable and it’s a neat way to make personalized gifts for people. And a great way to make gifts for myself! To that end, I purchased a sterling silver issue of the Michigan quarter, and a silver coin bezel to mount it. I was so excited to have this cool piece of jewelry to wear around and show my Michigan pride.

The same day I wore my new pendant for the first time, I stumbled online across a great debate about
Michigan’s endangered status as the mitten state. Apparently, the Wisconsinites have decided that their state also looks like a mitten, and most Michiganders, like myself, are very offended. Wisconsin looks nothing like a mitten, but everyone has known for years that Michigan is THE mitten. After Wisconsin beat Michigan State for the Big 10 college football championship, this Wisconsin mitten comparison just got everyone in The True Mitten very heated.

So, I was looking at a Michigan news website, reading an article about the great mitten debate, and chuckling to myself at the foolishness of the Wisconsinites when links to other Michigan news stories on the side of the screen caught my eye:
“Michigan Senate Bans Domestic Partner Benefits” and “Governor Snyder Says He’ll Sign Domestic Partner Benefits Ban.”

At first I felt a fool because these tidbits took me quite by surprise. I had no idea that this type of legislation was still worming its way through the Republican Michigan legislature. I remember in 2004 when a snaky referendum took place and my fellow Michiganders voted to not only ban gay marriage, but to ban gay unions, and most maliciously, any “similar union for any purpose,” embedding this tyranny in the state constitution. With that referendum passed, thousands of gay employees of government institutions or institutions receiving government money lost their domestic partner benefits in an instant. I thought the whole thing had died, and I had even semi-forgiven my fellow Michiganders for passing such a foolish law in the first place. But, I guess that wasn’t the end of the battle for the Republicans, who felt the need to cement the discrimination further with more laws.

I sat stunned for a moment, and thought about all the hardships I went through in Michigan because I did not have the right to marry. I thought about gay friends who couldn’t have time off work to attend their partner’s family members’ funerals, my colleagues whose same sex partners were laid off and then were left without benefits. And I thought of all my straight colleagues who enjoyed these benefits. And I thought of all the people I knew in Michigan who voted for a ban on gay marriage and who voted in the Republicans who were still passing such bills. Then I thought of all the energy I’d spent trying to convince Canadians of what a great place Michigan is to visit.

Feeling frustrated and not knowing what else to do, I took off my beautiful new necklace and put it away, out of sight, out of mind. Apparently I could hide my pride.

This past July, New York became the sixth state in the US to allow gay marriages. The next time I feel like taking a shopping trip to the US to pick up stuff I can't get in Canada, I will likely take a short drive to the southeast instead of a longer drive to the west. Maybe some retail therapy in the Empire State will help ease some of the pain at the betrayal of Michigan’s Pure Discrimination.

1 comment:

clp said...

michigan does kinda suck right now, hopefully one day it will get better… but i hope what ever other relationships in your life you are referring to become less rocky very soon.