LANSING — Today, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, along with Sen. Jeremy Moss (D–Southfield), and Reps. Jon Hoadley (D–Kalamazoo) and Tim Sneller (D–Burton) — members of the Michigan Legislature’s LGBTQ Caucus — renewed the decades-old call to expand the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act by adding sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes.
The bills introduced by the legislators would protect LGBTQ individuals from discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, and more.
"It’s time to get Michigan on the right side of history. In the year 2019, nobody should be fired from their job or evicted from their home based on who they love, or how they identify,” Gov. Whitmer said. “If we’re going to attract the talented workforce our businesses need to create jobs and grow our economy, we need to continue to make Michigan a state where everyone can come to for opportunity.”
If enacted, Michigan would join 20 other states that protect individuals from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“Next month, LGBTQ Americans will mark 50 years since the Stonewall Uprising, and still the community here in Michigan doesn’t have the basic discrimination protection that pioneering activists fought for all those years ago,” Sen. Moss said. “Our community finally has representation in both chambers of the Michigan Legislature and an advocate in the governor’s office committed to seeing this process through.”
Not only is supporting LGBTQ workers a move toward fundamental equality, it would strengthen Michigan’s economic position. A study from the Williams Institute, a UCLA Law School think tank, found LGBTQ-supportive policies and workplace atmospheres lead to job commitments, better workplace relationships, better health outcomes and increased job satisfaction.
“As I’ve always said, extending legal protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Michiganders is a matter of basic fairness and justice,” Rep. Hoadley said. “The time is right to bring Michigan’s critically important civil rights laws into the modern age. No one in our state should have to fear losing their job or losing their home because of who they are or who they love.
“I have always been proud of Michigan’s role in the fight for social progress,” Rep. Sneller said. “Updating the ELCRA and extending these important protections to LGBTQ Michiganders would serve as a symbol of our continued commitment to those values and show the nation that Michigan will not stand for discrimination of any kind.”
Equality Michigan has called upon the legislature to move forward in bipartisan manner by taking swift action in 2019.
“The time has come to modernize Michigan’s policies to make it clear that discrimination against LGBTQ people will not be tolerated,” said Erin Knott, Executive Director of Equality Michigan.
Michigan residents who believe they’ve faced discrimination can file complaints with the Michigan Civil Rights Commission as of May 2018, but the legal grounds for such complaints remains uncertain without explicit changes. The governor has also issued an executive directive to extend discrimination protections for state employees and contractors, but there is nothing yet to protect individuals outside of that scope.