Pennye Mattson, right, places a wedding ring on Sherrie Tyler, left, while being married by the Oakland County Clerk in Pontiac, Mich., March 22, 2014.
Paul Sancya/AP

Time for some real diversity in state houses

Michigan’s fight for marriage equality got more complicated last month when a U.S. appeals court decided to hold off on allowing any more same-sex marriages. After a lower court judge overturned the state’s same-sex marriage ban, more than 300 LGBT couples married and must now wait to see if their vows will be valid.

Michigan is isolated from the rest of the country, where 11 states have moved to allow same-sex marriages in the last two years.  On the whole, Michigan residents are politically moderate and a majority support same-sex marriage.

But the statehouse is a different story. Michigan currently has no LGBT legislators in its statehouse. The state’s first openly gay legislator Chris Kolb was elected in 2000 but term limits prevented him from running for a fourth term. No other LGBT candidates have followed in his footsteps.

Women are drastically outnumbered as well with Michigan ranked 36th for the proportion of women in its state legislature to the female population in the state. Women currently make up 20% of Michigan’s legislature, with just three women of color. This year Michigan adopted one of the harshest laws restricting abortion access in its history.

It’s time for a change. If we want policies that reflect the desires of our constituents, support the needs of our communities, and stand for equality, liberty, and security, we need the right advocates in office to support those policies.

LaunchProgress PAC supports candidates aged 18-35 running for their first state or local office, especially women, people of color, people from lower-income families and people who are disabled.

In Michigan, we endorsed Jon Hoadley, who would be the only LGBT member of the legislature. We also endorsed three women including one would be the first elected Asian-American woman to serve in the state legislature.

These four candidates come from underrepresented communities in politics and can bring unique perspectives to forming a better government. We have seen this in New York, where LGBT representatives advocated and succeeded in passing marriage equality. We have seen this in Texas where Wendy Davis stood against conservative legislation limiting women’s access to health services and inspired a new path for advancing reproductive rights.

Supporting candidates from underrepresented backgrounds doesn’t mean we shouldn’t support straight white men running for office.  But we must acknowledge that America is becoming increasingly diverse. Technology has pushed us into an even faster-paced world with greater economic and social challenges. We need problem-solvers who can tackle our nation’s most pressing issues. And more than ever, we need candidates who come from our communities — people who understand the needs of their constituents because they share their community’s experiences. These are the candidates who will represent us, and not the increasingly powerful lobby of special interests.

Poy Winichakul, is co-director and co-founder of LaunchProgress Political Action Committee