It seems I may owe my readers an apology. Having reread the column I wrote two weeks ago about the Michigan governor’s race (The amazing, underrated race, 01/19/10), it’s apparent that I sounded like a Republican cheerleader. So this week, I’m setting out to redeem myself to my liberal friends.

Enter state Rep. Paul Scott (R–Grand Blanc).

Scott, a 27-year-old who earned his undergraduate and law degrees from the University, was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 2008. In the same election that brought the United States its first black president, President Barack Obama, Scott became one of only two African American Republicans elected to the state House since 1904. In his first year in office he’s done nothing but annoy me, especially with his unwavering support for the statewide ban on smoking in privately owned establishments. But I know, my liberal friends, that this may actually endear him to many of you. Patience — you will share my loathing of Scott, I promise.

According to an article in the Flint Journal last month, Scott has made plans to run for Secretary of State. In a letter announcing his candidacy, he spelled out his top four priorities if elected to the position. Let me draw your attention to number three on his list: “I will make it a priority to ensure transgender individuals will not be allowed to change the sex on their driver’s license in any circumstance.”

Yes, you read that correctly.

I know what you’re thinking: finally, a candidate with the courage to scale back rights for the transgendered. And these people thought they could have difficult, expensive, life-altering surgeries to help them feel comfortable with themselves — and that the rest of us would just put up with it! Thank goodness we’ve got Scott looking out for us. “That’s who you are. You can have cosmetic surgery or reassignment surgery but you are still that gender,” he told the Michigan Messenger last month. There’s no fooling this guy.

But not only is Scott passionate about shunning an already marginalized community — doing so is in fact his third most important governmental priority. If you were unable to sleep at night out of fear that the next Secretary of State might waste time simplifying Michigan’s voter registration or driver’s licensing systems instead of chasing transgender people back into the shadows from whence they came, Scott should put you at ease. Forming a better relationship with the Attorney General’s office? Nope. Consolidating branch offices? Further down the list. Reducing expenditures in order to lessen the tax burden? Please. Taxpayers are obviously more interested in fighting for the obscure causes of a fringe social conservative agenda than saving money.

Speaking of the fringe social conservative agenda, the Grand Rapids Press reported last month that the Michigan chapter of the American Family Association is the group demanding that someone take up this fight. In the article, Michigan AFA President Gary Glenn cited transgender people using restrooms other than those intended for their original biological sex as one of the reasons for revising the current policy, which allows the transgendered to change the sex on their licenses.

But even if your top concern really is this whole restroom thing (and if it is, you are an absurd person), driver’s licenses don’t really affect the situation. I don’t remember ever having to show my license to use the restroom. Will Secretary of State officials now stand guard at every toilet in the state? Will they conduct full-body searches to discover your true gender? Does the AFA support such action?

All jokes aside, it’s really a shame to see such a chronically misunderstood and disrespected minority treated so terribly. Choosing to undergo gender reassignment surgery or seek therapy for gender-related issues takes a great deal of courage. The least the state can do is support such courage by granting transgender people some dignity and letting them change the sex on their licenses.

Which brings me back to candidate Scott. I expect such lunacy from the AFA (this organization recently boycotted Gap and Old Navy for not being “pro-Christmas” enough), not from Republican legislators. And what’s more, I expect much better from graduates of the University. How someone could spend years in Ann Arbor and not gain a single ounce of compassion for socially marginalized people is beyond me.

But even social conservatives should recognize that a guy who lists this issue in his top four priorities is the wrong candidate for Secretary of State. Republican primary voters, show us that you won’t fall for such pointless demagoguery and pick somebody else.

Robert Soave was the Daily’s editorial page editor in 2009. He can be reached at rsoave@umich.edu.

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