Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Democratic lawmakers are renewing their call to expand the state’s civil rights law to include a ban on discrimination against LGBTQ residents.
Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination in housing and hiring based on religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, and marital status. But it does not protect residents based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
For at least two decades, Democrats have introduced legislation to include protections for the LGBTQ community, but each time, Republicans prevented the bills from advancing to a vote.
Supporters of the latest bills, introduced in the House last week and the Senate on Feb. 23, said this time could be different. Two Republicans – Sen. Wayne Schmidt of Traverse City, and Rep. Tommy Brann, of Wyoming – have co-sponsored the legislation.
“For the first time, this package has bipartisan support in both chambers of the legislature,” Rep. Laurie Pohutsky, D-Livonia, who introduced the House bill, said in a statement Monday. “Ensuring that each and every Michigan resident has equal protection under the law is not a partisan issue — it is a reflection of our values. An overwhelming majority is calling for this change, and it is time that our laws reflect the will of the people.”
If approved, Michigan would become the 22nd state in the U.S. to provide full protections from discrimination for LGBTQ people.
“As other states enshrine LGBTQ protections and our leaders in Congress work to include them in federal law, we in Michigan are still sitting on the sidelines and sending the wrong signal about our priorities and values to those looking to live or do business here,” Sen. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, who introduced the Senate bill, said. “We shouldn’t have to wait any longer. We must display that Michigan is a welcoming state for everyone to safely call home.”
Whitmer said the bills “should bring Michigan in line with other states to become a model of equality nationwide.”
“As a country, we have come a long way tackling discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and identity, but we must enshrine critical protections that a majority of Michiganders support in our state’s laws,” Whitmer said. “This is not only the right thing to do, but it is also an effort supported by our state’s largest employers who want to expand protections to attract and retain employees. Together, we can build a stronger, more inclusive Michigan.”
Former House Speak Lee Chatfield’s
opposition to expanding anti-discrimination protections to LGBTQ residents cost him a six-figure job last month.
A Michigan Department of Civil Rights
study found that LGBTQ discrimination has a negative impact on the state's economy.
“Michiganders have stood up time and time again against discrimination, and I am proud to stand with them once more,” Rep. Tim Sneller, D-Burton, a co-sponsor of the House legislation, said. “Updating the ELCRA is not only important to extend the full benefit of these protections to the LGBTQ community but also to enshrine our commitment to fight discrimination of any kind. Being a part of this march towards progress and equality will always be one of my proudest moments as a legislator and a citizen.”
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