LGBT Leaders Applaud Effort to Update Civil Rights Law

September 11, 2014

DETROIT – A coalition of organizations committed to full equality for LGBT residents in Michigan applauded the introduction of legislation to update the state’s civil rights law to include protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.

“Treating people differently based on who they are is discrimination – plain and simple. Fifty years ago, businesses were allowed to refuse to serve people based on their skin color, and as a nation, we decided that was wrong,” said Kary L. Moss, ACLU of Michigan executive director. “We now have an opportunity to update the law and ensure that Michiganders can’t be fired, evicted or refused services just because they are gay or transgender. By updating the law we can help level the playing field for all Michiganders who are working hard to provide for their families and contribute to society.”

Currently, the ELCRA makes it illegal to discriminate based on religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status or marital status. However, sexual orientation and gender identity are not included under the ELCRA.

The legislation, introduced in the Senate and in the House of Representatives with support of all members of the Democratic Caucus and an independent, would update Michigan’s Elliott-Larson Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

“No one should have to live in fear that they could be legally fired for reasons that have nothing to do with their job performance – especially in this uncertain economic climate. This legislation, which protects all people based on sexual orientation and gender identity, strikes a balance and is an important step to ensuring that all Michiganders are treated fairly and equally under the law,” stated members of the Unity Michigan coalition, which includes ACLU of Michigan, Affirmations, Equality Michigan, the Kalamazoo Gay Lesbian Resource Center, KICK, the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, and the Ruth Ellis Center.

Research shows an overwhelming majority of Michigan residents – 75 percent – support updating ELCRA, and many communities across Michigan have already acted to update their civil rights ordinances on this issue.

"We are pleased that the legislature is taking action to update the ELCRA with a fully inclusive bill that protects Michiganders from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Sommer Foster, Equality Michigan director of political advocacy. “The business community and faith leaders have made clear that discrimination is not a Michigan value. It's time to protect all of our citizens and to move Michigan forward."

In May, a broad coalition of business leaders – the Michigan Competitive Workforce Coalition -- launched to support updating Michigan’s civil rights laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity. In addition, surveys of small business owners show that a strong majority – 60 percent – support striking this important balance.

“All qualified, hardworking Michiganders deserve the right to work without fear of discrimination,” said Sarah Warbelow, HRC Legal Director and native Michigander. “While LGBT people are protected by law in many Michigan cities, workers throughout the state deserve the right to be judged not on their sexual orientation or gender identity, but on their ability to get the job done. Adding protections for LGBT citizens in the workplace, as well as housing markets or places of public accommodation, is clearly in the best interest of Michigan.”

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