State senators walk out as Michigan Republican rants that kids are 'under attack' from 'forces'

At least two state senators walked out of session Wednesday in protest of an invocation given by state Sen. Lana Theis (R-Brighton), which appeared to reference Republicans’ national push to crack down on teachings and books that reference LGBTQ+ issues and America’s history of white supremacy.

“Dear Lord, across the country we’re seeing in the news that our children are under attack. That there are forces that desire things for them other than what their parents would have them see and hear and know. Dear Lord, I pray for Your guidance in this chamber to protect the most vulnerable among us,” Theis said, in part.

“The ‘forces’ are, of course, public school teachers, and the ‘things’ are the LGBTQ community,” tweeted state Sen. Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia). “To pervert the Senate Invocation in this way is beyond the pale.”

Theis did not respond to a request for comment.

Polehanki suggested on Twitter that the comment from Theis, who is chair of the Senate Education Committee, is indicative of legislation modeled on a Florida measure known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill coming to the Michigan Legislature.

Following a nationwide movement from Republicans to restrict literature and teachings about LGBTQ issues, the controversial Florida bill allows parents to sue school districts if their child is exposed to instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity deemed to not be “age-appropriate.”

Jon Rocha, a GOP candidate for the Michigan House who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, has said he will introduce legislation modeled on the Florida measure if he is elected.

Polehanki and state Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) walked out of the chamber in protest of Theis’ invocation. Both said several of their colleagues joined them.

“Without sharing or repeating closed-minded harmful words from a sitting Senator under the guise of a ‘prayer,’ to every child in Michigan – you are perfect and welcome and loved for being exactly who you are,” McMorrow tweeted.

On Thursday, the Senate rejected two more of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s appointees, following a pattern during her tenure. The GOP-controlled body voted against Michael Ryan to the Ferris State University board and former state Rep. Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo) to the Western Michigan University board.

Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) spoke out against the Republicans’ action and noted that Hoadley is gay. He also noted that the Senate has not taken any action against Sen. John Bizon (R-Battle Creek), who pleaded guilty in February to assaulting a nurse.

Ananich said he will introduce a resolution to censure Bizon.

Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

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