'Inappropriate and Underhanded'

Last week, Democratic Eaton County Commissioner Howard Spence was the victim of a vile political smear job. A smear job that tracks back to his Republican opponent and her supporters.

We agree with Republican State Sen. Rick Jones of Grand Ledge - a politician not known for a warm embrace of the LGBT community - that this attack was "inappropriate" and "underhanded."

Spence was smeared by an anonymous website because he was the victim of what many experts in hate crimes labeled a "probable" anti-gay bias motivated robbery. In February, Spence invited a man to his home whom he had met via Craigslist. The man absconded with his wallet and his car. He attempted to use Spence's credit cards and the car was recovered in Detroit. That man is facing an Oct. 20 sentencing in Eaton County Circuit Court for unlawfully driving away an automobile and being a fourth habitual criminal.

But instead of applauding a legal system that has sought justice for Spence, his political opponents have taken the opportunity to revisit tired old tropes linking sexuality with vulnerability to blackmail. We've seen this play out in local, state and national politics for decades; and while we concur with political strategist Joe DiSano that this smear is unlikely to impact the final outcome of Spence's County Commission race, the reality is that the voters are the ultimate victims in this sensationalist heap of political malice. There is no discussion about policy, only innuendo and character assassination fueled, apparently, by right wing anti-gay Christian theology.

This assassination was timed to coincide with the release of absentee ballots in Delta Township. We encourage voters in Delta Township to reject the politics of hate and bigotry and cast their ballot for Spence.

It is not lost on us that here, at the beginning of LGBTQ History Month, a politician is facing a 1950s style lavender menace assault. For decades, our sexualities have been used to prevent us from professions ranging from bar owner to politician to serving our country in the State Department, the armed forces, the CIA and the FBI. While that has slowly begun to change, this type of assault, so clearly drawn from outdated, bigoted perspectives of queer people, serves only to remind us that we have a long way to go to achieve full equality in America.

America outgrew McCarthyism. This sort of attack should be roundly and clearly condemned immediately by every person who thinks diversity in American politics is healthy for the body politic. That includes a clear, immediate statement from Spence's opponent condemning this vile smear for the bigotry and hatred it represents and an assurance to the voters of Eaton County that she will focus on policy; not personal ephemera. Anything less shows she is incapable of representing all the residents of Eaton County's Delta Township.

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