Attorney General Dana Nessel has many credits to her name. In Michigan, she is the first Jewish person elected to statewide office. She is also the first openly queer person to hold a statewide office. This has made her a role model to many people.
In an interview with Kveller, Nessel explained that she is happy to take on the responsibility of being a role model for LGBTQIA people because there weren't any when she was younger. She said:" I grew up during a time where we didn't have very many role models that were openly LGBTQ. And I didn't have anybody in my life or know anybody that was openly gay. You had people that you suspected, but nobody could talk about it."
Nessel goes on to talk about what inspired her to be a lawyer. She says that reading Harper Lee's classic book, To Kill A Mockingbird, shaped her desire to go into law. One of her goals was to help find justice for people, which the books helped her realize was possible. As she grew up, some things changed but for a desire to help people remained.
When she announced her run for Attorney General, Nessel said it was to continue her fight to help people. NBC News quoted her as saying the office was not doing what they were supposed to do under former AG Bill Schuette. "They aren't fighting for the little guy. They aren't fighting to protect our people against rogue bad actors hurting our most vulnerable."
History Before Run
Many Michigan residents knew her name before Nessel ran for Attorney General. She had risen to prominence as one of the attorneys responsible for overturning the State constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
The case was DeBoer v. Snyder. April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse wanted to adopt their children jointly. They could not because of Michigan's ban on same-sex couples adopting. According to Legal.com, the suit was filed on January 23, 2012, with Nessel as the lead lawyer for the parents. Federal judge Bernard A. Friedman invited the couple to amend their lawsuit to challenge the ban on gay marriage, which he called "the underlying issue."
They did so. On March 21, 2012, Friedman overturned Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage. The decision was appealed, with the United States Court Of Appeals Sixth Circuit putting a hold on the decision. Eventually, they upheld the ban.
Nessel, along with DeBoer and Rowse, appealed the decision to the United States Supreme Court. It was folded into the Obergefell v. Hodges case. The decision, in that case, would make gay marriage legal throughout the land.
Because of her role in the landmark decision and her faith, Nessel has faced severe backlash from some people. She told Kveller: "There were times where I probably wondered, for the sake of my family, if perhaps I should resign my position just for their safety because the death threats are so fast and furious. But I put myself in the place where I'm in this unique position to represent all people in this state. If I resign because I'm afraid, then those people who seek to discriminate against others really have won."
Running for Attorney General offered her a new way to help people.
Time In Office
In 2019, just months after she took office, Nessel began to fear that federal policies and Supreme Court decisions would set the country back. One policy that troubled her, in particular, allowed medical professionals to refuse to treat a patient if it went against their religious beliefs.
As Attorney General, she pushed back against the policy by saying that the United States is a democracy, not a theocracy. She told Michigan Advance in 2019: "It violates the doctrine of separation of church and state in the most egregious way imaginable. And you can only imagine the ends that we could take that to. But when you have that type of thing that is happening you really have to ask yourself: Where does that end?"
While fighting back against that policy, she also spoke about the possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned. She vowed that she would not prosecute any woman who chose to get an abortion. At the beginning of June, she tweeted that we need to be worried about what's coming.
Her tweet read: "Entering #pride month, it's important to acknowledge the risk the Dobbs decision poses toward other fundamental rights like marriage equality, or even consensual sex deemed "sodomy" under MI law. Once we start eviscerating 14th Amendment rights, I don't see how to separate them."
And Nessel has vowed to help fight for the people who could be targeted. She wants justice for all.