A lesbian lawyer who was a lead attorney in the lawsuit challenging Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage — one of several cases that led the U.S. Supreme Court to rule for marriage equality nationwide — has won election to become the next attorney general of the Wolverine State.
In an extremely close race that wasn’t called by media outlets until Wednesday, Nessel, a Democrat and former prosecutor, won with 48.5 percent of the vote compared to the 46.8 percent claimed by her Republican opponent, Speaker of Michigan House Tom Leonard.
As a private attorney, Nessel was co-counsel in the case, DeBoer v. Snyder, which sought to overturn Michigan’s 2004 ban on same-sex marriage. Although the district court determined the measure unconstitutional, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the decision. When the case went before the U.S. Supreme Court, it was consolidated with others to form the Obergefell v. Hodges lawsuit that led justices to rule for marriage equality nationwide.
Annise Parker, CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, said Nessel, “shattered a lavender ceiling in Michigan and achieved what only one other openly LGBTQ person ever has – being elected attorney general of her state.”
“Dana’s struggles and experiences as an openly lesbian woman has forged in her a commitment to fairness and equal rights – and her tremendous passion and energy for uplifting those values will be invaluable in the attorney general’s office,” Parker said. “In electing Dana, Michigan voters forever changed what is possible for an openly LGBTQ candidate in the state and opened the door to more LGBTQ leaders who want to run and make change.”
Nessel is the second openly gay person to win election as a state attorney general. The first was Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey in 2014. Healey was up for re-election in 2018 and was re-elected on the same night of Nessel’s victory.