Michigan AG Dana Nessel: Fighting the good fight
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel continues to fight for the people while ensuring that the state remains inclusive for everyone– including the LGBTQ community.
This despite setbacks like when a federal judge ruled against AG Nessel and the state last October 2019 to prevent a Catholic adoption agency from refusing to serve LGBTQ couples.
While she’s the first openly gay person elected to statewide office in Michigan, Nessel follows Maura Healey of Massachusetts as the second openly gay person elected AG of a state.
Dana Nessel’s life and career
Born 19 April 1969, Nessel earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan. She went on to get her Juris Doctor from Wayne State University Law School.
Afterwards, she worked as a prosecutor in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.
In 2018, she ran and won the Democratic Party nomination for Michigan AG. She then went on to defeat four candidates in the election.
She was later sworn into office on 1 January 2019.
Presently, Nessel lives in southeast Michigan with her wife, Alanna Maguire. They have twin sons.
Dana Nessel versus anti-LGBTQ adoption agency
Among the many high-profile cases that Nessel as AG took part was the one against the St. Vincent Catholic Charities adoption agency.
After taking office, Nessel wanted the state’s Department of Health and Human Services to enforce nondiscrimination poicies by requiring contracts with adoption agencies refusing to work with LGBTQ couples to be terminated.
St. Vincent sued Nessel and asked to be allowed to operate under state contract. US District Judge Robert Jonker ruled in their favor, saying this new policy targets St. Vincent’s religious beliefs.
Nessel pushed for a stay of the ruling, saying that Michigan law allows these agencies to turn away families in private cases based on religious beliefs, but not with state-supervised children.
But Jonker denied this as well, even saying that the AG was engaging in “religious targeting.” He also cited her prior statements against anti-LGBTQ religious groups.
“Leading up to and during the 2018 general election campaign, [Nessel] made it clear that she considered beliefs like St. Vincent’s to be the product of hate,” Jonkers said.
Dana Nessel pushing for more, not less inclusivity
But among her triumphs was Nessel puishing for the state Civil Rights Commission not to be bound by her predecessor’s decision that LGBTQ people are not protected by an anti-discrimination law.
The position of the previous Attorney General Bill Schuette– a Republican– was that the commission had overstepped when the latter had said the state’s civil rights law covered sexual orientation and gender identity.
However, Nessel didn’t give a formal opinion because of pending litigation. Presently, the US Supreme Court is deciding a case involving a Michigan funeral home’s firing of a transgender woman.
This is one among three cases the high court is deciding on, i.e. whether federal civil rights law bans job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.