It’s time to act on protections for LGBT people and include the LGBT community in the Michigan Civil Rights Act.
By Mel Larsen
At the time of its passage in 1976, the purpose of the Michigan Civil Rights Act (also known as the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act), was to give all Michigan citizens, primarily African Americans, recourse through the Michigan Department of Civil Rights Enforcement Division if they believed they had been discriminated against. It was also equally important to develop educational programs to help citizens better understand acts of discrimination and how to avoid such acts.
Nowhere in the Michigan Civil Right Act does it say certain groups or individuals shall be excluded from protection against discrimination. The intent of the Michigan Civil Right Act is to include all citizens.
Article 5 section 29 of the Michigan Constitution of 1964 created an independent Civil Right Commission responsible for oversight, enforcement and monitoring of civil rights in the state of Michigan. The majority of the current commissioners believes the Michigan Civil Rights Act includes all citizens and citizen groups, including the LGBT community. They so stated by resolution this past year. The LGBT community has every right as citizens of the state of Michigan to be protected from discrimination under this act.
To include LGBT community in the Michigan Civil Rights Act, it must be amended by the legislature to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
For more than a decade, the majority leadership in both the Michigan House and Senate have refused to address the issue of sexual orientation and gender identity being added to the Michigan Civil Right Act. They have chosen to simply not put it on their agenda.
Recently, bills have been once again introduced in both the House and Senate to include sexual orientation and gender identity to the Michigan Civil Rights Act.
This is a public issue that needs to be addressed. It is time for the majority leadership in the legislature to stop saying no to this item and put the sexual orientation and gender identity bills on their agenda. Start scheduling public hearings across the state and let the public be heard. Be they individuals, corporations, religious leaders, the LGBT community, educators or special interest groups, bring them all to the table.
Recent polls indicate adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the Michigan Civil Right Act is supported by an overwhelming majority of Michigan citizens. Public hearings will prove or disprove this statement.
Mel Larsen, a Republican representative, and Daisy Elliott, a Democratic representative, co-sponsored Michigan’s landmark Michigan Civil Rights Act, also known as the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, in 1976. Larsen is also a former Michigan Republican Party chairman.
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