2013 marks the 30th year – the actual anniversary is October 6 – of the introduction of HB 5000, introduced by Rep. James Dressel, an Ottawa County Republican, which would have amended the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation as a basic civil right.
It was a stunning and electrifying step that galvanized the entire state. Today, while the issue is still clearly emotional and controversial, to even speak of gay rights let alone see court fights over them has become somewhat routine, just another matter for the daily news fodder.
In 1983, gay rights was something limited to San Francisco, and otherwise the overall issue was wrapped in fear the public had of a new, mysterious and terrifying disease called AIDS.
For having the courage to do the right thing, Rep. Dressel lost his subsequent re-election vote after complete three terms. If he had waited one more term before introducing the bill, he would have earned a state pension.
Source : John Lindstrom, “Remembering A Pioneering Moment In Gay Rights In The Legislature”, Gongwer Blog, March 7, 2013.