When Rick Snyder was running for governor and became the lovable “nerd” who won the votes of most Michiganders, many saw hope for a new breed of Republican in him. People saw his business background and conservatism as the perfect medicine for the downtrodden economy, and many believed his stance on social issues were far from the Tea Party extremism found in the state legislature. During his campaign, whenever he was asked about social issues ranging from women’s health to LGBTQ rights, Snyder simply stated that those issues were not on his agenda and that fixing the economy was his main concern. Most people believed this meant that Snyder was going to focus on the economy and not worry about archaic social issues that only the religious right fights against.

Patrick Maillet

Oh how wrong we were …

What we have come to learn these last few years is that Snyder is undoubtedly focused primarily on economics, but when it comes to social issues he has essentially let the radical members of his party take control and pass whatever legislation they see fit. During his tenure as governor, Snyder has signed countless laws that severely limit women’s right to choose and diminished the rights of the LGBTQ community.

As state Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) said in a phone interview last week, “Governor Snyder consistently avoids taking a side on social issues. When he was first elected, we all thought that maybe he would be a different type of Republican. Instead, he has demonstrated that it’s not that he opposes these social topics, it’s just that he only cares about economic issues.”

Irwin went on to say, “These issues: women’s rights, LGBT equality … they’re just not on his radar screen.”

Michiganders were painfully reminded of this trend last week when U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman ruled Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. The very next day, more than 300 same-sex couples were married before a federal appeals court issued a stay, preventing more marriages until the case is heard by a higher court. In response to these marriages, Governor Snyder said that the unions were “legal” and “valid,” but that the state will not recognize them nor offer them the same benefits given to heterosexual couples.

Just when we thought Michigan would be a forward-thinking state, we were painfully reminded that our state government is controlled by radical members of the religious right.

Snyder’s stance on these 300 marriages is just the newest example of his inability to actually take a stand on a social issue. Critics throughout the country have criticized Snyder’s ‘legal, but not that legal’ statement, and most attorneys on either side of the aisle are acknowledging that Snyder is probably in the wrong. As Ken Mogill, one of the lawyers challenging the same-sex marriage ban, stated last week, “I would not want to be one of the Governor’s lawyers trying to defend that position in court. It’s kind of a head-spinning position.”

Irwin also commented on Snyder’s statement, saying, “I have to be honest, I don’t understand his position because it makes no sense.”

I understand where Snyder is coming from politically. He has to appeal to his radical base and come out and oppose same-sex marriage. But instead of coming out and openly saying that he opposes this court ruling, Snyder — like always — is trying to have it both ways. He wants to appear against same-sex marriage to appeal to religious voters, yet also wants to attract independents by claiming indifference and stating that he’s simply upholding the law.

“He’s just trying to make it less obvious that he’s on the wrong side of history,” Irwin said in reaction to Snyder’s remarks.

Though Snyder and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette have a duty to defend the Michigan Constitution, they have also sworn an oath to defend the U.S. Constitution. With the Supreme Court’s ruling last summer striking down the Defense of Marriage Act and a recent ABC News-Washington Post poll showing that 59 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage, one can’t help but see the writing on the wall.

Snyder loves to refer to himself as “one tough nerd.” I have no doubt that Snyder is an intelligent man, but over these past couple of years he has shown that he is nothing more than a number-cruncher who doesn’t care about current social issues that leave Michigan years behind most of the country. The Governor has repeatedly refused to stand up to the Tea Party radicals within the state legislature. He may see himself as a nerd, but I see little more than a wimp.

Patrick Maillet can be reached at maillet@umich.edu.

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