Report shows Catholic Conference funding opposition against LGBTQ+ rights initiative

By: - July 28, 2021 12:26 pm

Michigan Pride on the Capitol steps, June 15, 2019 | Susan J. Demas

The Michigan Catholic Conference has largely funded the opposition against Fair and Equal Michigan’s petition to amend the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to expand anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ residents, according to campaign finance reports filed Monday.

The petition aims to get the issue before voters in 2022, but was rejected this week by a bipartisan state board.

The report, filed with the Secretary of State by the opposition group Citizens for Equality, Fairness and Justice, shows that the Michigan Catholic Conference contributed more than $238,000 in direct and in-kind contributions. The opposition group has challenged the validity of Fair and Equal’s petitions signatures, as the Advance previously reported

The Catholic Church’s opposition to LGBTQ equal rights is unfortunate, but it was not unexpected,” said Fair and Equal Michigan spokesperson Josh Hovey. “It is well known that they have been out of touch with the majority of voters in Michigan and across the country on this issue, and that we are thankful that campaign finance disclosure laws make their anti-equality position known to all.”

In total, the committee has received more than $204,000 in direct contributions from the Michigan Catholic Conference and nearly $39,000 in in-kind contributions. Additionally, Lansing-based advocacy nonprofit Michigan Future First donated $3,000, the Lansing-based Michigan Family Forum donated $1,000, Colorado Springs-based Family Policy Alliance donated $100 and Heather Lombardini, the public affairs president at Lansing-based political consulting firm Lambert, donated $100.

The Catholic Church's opposition to LGBTQ equal rights is unfortunate, but it was not unexpected.

– Fair and Equal Michigan spokesperson Josh Hovey

In a press release Monday, Michigan Catholic Conference vice president for communications David Maluchnik stated that they made financial contributions to Citizens for Equality Fairness and Justice because “if [the Fair and Equal Michigan] proposal were to become law it would only be a matter of time before litigation and public relations campaigns were to begin against religiously-based charitable and humanitarian aid.”

A spokesperson for the Michigan Catholic Conference did not respond to a request for further comment. 

“It’s … important to point out that Elliott-Larsen already provides exemptions for religious institutions and that language does not change if our proposal is adopted,” Hovey said. “At the end of the day, what opponents to our initiative are asking for is to continue being able to use religion as a license to discriminate.”

The Board of State Canvassers voted Monday to reject the Fair and Equal Michigan petition due to a lack of valid signatures. The group was aiming to get the issue before voters in 2022.

Fair and Equal Michigan attorney Steve Liedel said Monday that the campaign plans to appeal the decision of the board.

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue is a former Michigan Advance reporter who covered education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.