Michigan state board to review rejected initiative to protect LGBTQ residents from discrimination


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Update: The Michigan Board of Canvassers voted 4-0 to reject the certification of signatures. Fair and Equal Michigan said it plans to challenge the decision in the Court of Appeals.

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers plans to meet Monday to determine the fate of a petition-driven initiative to prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people in Michigan.

The Michigan Bureau of Elections rejected the initiative earlier this month, saying organizers failed to collect enough valid signatures.

Fair and Equal Michigan collected about 299,000 signatures from registered voters, falling short of the 340,047 required for certification, according to the bureau. But the group, which formed in January 2020, contends it did gather enough signatures and accused the bureau of invalidating legitimate signatures.

The bureau based its decision on analyzing a sample of 502 signatures and said only 337 were valid, falling short of the 398 needed for certification. Supporters are calling for a larger sample size to be counted.

The bipartisan Board of Canvassers will give the petition drive a fresh look and could side with the bureau, call for a larger sample size to be counted, or reject the bureau’s conclusion. If the board sides with Fair and Equal Michigan, the initiative would be sent to the GOP-controlled Legislature.

The group’s goal is to force state lawmakers to vote on expanding 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.

If the board certifies the initiative and the Legislature rejects it, it would appear on the November 2020 ballot for voters to decide.

In March, Democratic lawmakers and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer renewed their calls to amend the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act, but Republicans have balked at advancing the legislation.

More than 20 states in the U.S. provide full protections from discrimination for LGBTQ people.

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