We’re betting that just one week ago Lisa Brown didn’t think she’d be thrust into the national spotlight for speaking her mind, or performing “The Vagina Monologues” on the steps of the state Capitol. The Democrat representing West Bloomfield Township, Commerce Township and Wolverine Lake in the state House was outrageously stifled for something she often does — making remarks on the floor of the state’s lower chamber. Republican leadership in the Michigan House of Representatives should be ashamed for muzzling Brown, as well as her colleague state Rep. Barb Byrum (D-Onondaga).
Brown’s remarks last week over a controversial bill concluded with the following quip: “I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no.’” Some have speculated GOP leadership refused to recognize her on the House floor the next day because she said the word “vagina.” Others have said it was because the phrase “‘no’ means ‘no’” is associated with rape. Regardless, Brown should not have been silenced. Neither should have Byrum, who offered up an amendment to House Bill 5711 that would have required legitimate medical reasoning in order to perform a vasectomy.
The office of Speaker of the House Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) took to Twitter, saying “2 Reps. aren’t being recognized to speak today because of their actions. (It) has nothing to (do) w/gender, religion or topic.” Bolger himself reportedly didn’t make the decision to put Brown and Byrum in the Bad Lawmakers’ Corner; that reportedly was done by state Rep. Jim Stamas (R-Midland), the Majority Floor Leader.
Of all places, the Michigan Legislature should be a place where free speech — you know, the concept laid out in the First Amendment? — is lionized, put on a pedestal and never trampled upon. Instead, that’s what happened at the behest of Republicans made uncomfortable by Brown’s remarks. We aren’t surprised that GOP leadership didn’t like her remarks or that they came in opposition to legislation outlining new requirements for abortion providers. However, we’re stunned that Republican House leadership would prohibit Brown and Byrum from speaking about anything the following day.
Honest and open debate, regardless of the issue at hand, should not be stymied because someone says something the majority party doesn’t like, whether Republicans or Democrats are in charge.
The GOP leadership that muzzled Brown and Byrum last week was wrong, plain and simple, and ushered in a new and embarrassing low for both the Michigan Legislature and the state, given the national and international media coverage. Pure Michigan, indeed.