Former House Speaker Lee Chatfield this morning resigned his post as CEO of Southwest Michigan First after less than two weeks on the job, citing the uproar in the community caused by his positions while in office regarding the expansion of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include gender identity and sexual orientation.
Mr. Chatfield opposed ELCRA expansion while in office while pointing to concerns of discrimination against those with sincerely held religious beliefs. Advocates for the expansion point to the fact the LGBTQ community could still lose housing or employment because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
After Mr. Chatfield was hired, several partners with Southwest Michigan First criticized the decision and moved to sever ties with the organization.
In a resignation letter posted to Twitter this morning, Mr. Chatfield said he was willing to uphold the values of the company as CEO. Still, he wrote, “I couldn’t within myself be honest to those around me by always agreeing on what good public policy was or what was necessarily right or wrong.”
“As a Christian, I believe in the bible. I don’t want to hide from that. Nor do I want to run from that. I don’t say that as a shield and I certainly don’t say that to use as a weapon. I say it only because I want to be open and honest,” Mr. Chatfield wrote. “And I don’t want to feel I have to be quiet about that within this community so I could collect a paycheck. That’s not right to anybody. And I can’t truthfully apologize for various conservative beliefs I espoused while in office. … But many of my political opinions were causing an uproar. That mush was obvious. I thought I could come into a community and find ways to collaborate even despite some past disagreements, which I was very willing to do so, but I was wrong.”
Mr. Chatfield wrote he and his family hold no ill will toward the Kalamazoo community and the political leaders within it. He wrote he will strive to continue learning and understanding those with different opinions.
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