YIG 2023 Delegate, Fridley
Junior delegate Mike LeRoy has his sights set on a hat-trick after getting bills passed the last two years at the Youth in Government conference. Last year, Mike wrote a bill to allow people with disabilities to get married without any financial or medical coverage penalties. His passion for the issue was personal – Mike has cerebral palsy and epilepsy and also thinks he may someday want to get married and have kids. Currently in the United States, if people with disabilities marry, they may risk losing Social Security, medical coverage, or other civil benefits.
This year, Mike wrote a bill to allow people to use facilities (including bathrooms, locker rooms, and changing rooms) without worrying about their safety. “Trans, nonbinary and disabled people are often discriminated against for being themselves,” he said “I believe that all buildings should be required to designate or build ADA-accessible gender-neutral bathrooms and changing spaces. Public debate about this issue is higher than it used to be so we need to be clear and guarantee access to facilities for everyone.”
Mike believes that his willingness to share about his own experiences is one of the reasons for his success at Youth in Government. Fridley High School Delegation Director Steve Holt agrees: “It is very inspiring to see Mike teach other students about people with disabilities,” says Holt. “What’s even more significant, though, is seeing other delegates talking WITH Mike, not ABOUT Mike when it comes to these issues. Mike’s bill passed because he effectively made the case during the floor debate, not because he uses a wheelchair. One of the best parts of YIG is when people come together around ideas or values they have in common and their differences just kind of fade away.”
Mike hasn’t decided yet on what bill he will author next year although he says it’s likely to focus on an issue that helps people better understand the challenges people with disabilities face. “We have come a long way since the Americans with Disabilities Act but there is still a long way to go,” he said. “YIG has given me confidence and opportunities I never thought I would have,” Mike added. “I don’t know exactly what the future holds, but I know I will never stop trying to make the world a place where everyone feels like they belong.”