LGBT community reacts to firing of Andrew Shirvell
Assistant attorney general Andrew Shirvell was fired for using state resources to maintain a blog that harassed University of Michigan student body president Chris Armstrong for being gay.
Michigan attorney general Mike Cox fired Shirvell on Nov. 8, citing “behavior unbecoming of a state employee, borderline stalking behavior and inappropriately using state resources” as the reasons behind the termination. Cox told the Detroit Free Press he would not fire anyone for exercising his or her First Amendment rights, no matter how popular or unpopular the opinion may be.
Shirvell had maintained a blog for several months attacking Armstrong by calling him “a radical homosexual, a Nazi and Satan’s representative on the assembly” and other insults. Shirvell defended his actions and said he was exercising free speech.
The Washtenaw County prosecutor said Shirvell’s actions did not meet the state’s definition of harassment.
Colette Seguin Beighley, director of the LGBT Resource Center at Grand Valley State University, said Shirvell deserved to be fired. She said the context of Shirvell’s actions are important and can have an impact on the entire LGBT community.
“As assistant attorney general, Andrew Shirvell had a position of power within our state which gave his words and actions greater meaning,” Seguin Beighley said. “In a little over a month, there have been over a dozen suicides of LGBT students around the country. Anti-gay rhetoric from the assistant attorney general of the state of Michigan is not only inappropriate, that kind of language also puts our youth at an even greater risk of harm.”
Seguing Beighley said the state can do more to prevent harassment and a similar situation from arising again.
“The state of Michigan needs to extend equal rights to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community…” she said. “Until they do so, the LGBT community is not protected from discrimination in their jobs or housing. It’s still legal to be fired in Michigan for being gay. Also, our hate crimes laws do not protect the LGBT community.”
Violence and hate crimes continue to be a problem facing the LGBT community. According to the FBI, 17.6 percent of the victims of all hate crimes in 2008 were singled out because of their sexual orientation.
“As long as equality is not afforded to our LGBT citizens, they will continue to experience discrimination, harassment and violence,” Seguin Beighley said. “Our state needs to act now to provide equal protection and treat all our citizens with respect and dignity.”
The GVSU Student Senate initially issued a statement supporting Armstrong when the blog first began receiving more attention.
“The Grand Valley State University Student Senate is committed to inclusion, diversity and tolerance,” the release stated. “In alignment with these values, and on behalf of the student body, the Student Senate wishes to extend sincere support for Mr. Armstrong.”
The Student Senate had no further comment regarding the firing of Shirvell.