Courtesy of David Olds, Michigan Senate Democrats

Governor Whitmer, Sen. Moss among those urging expansion of Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to add sexual orientation and gender identity.

On June 4, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, along with Sen. Jeremy Moss, D–Southfield, and other members of the Michigan Legislature’s LGBTQ Caucus, renewed the 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,” 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.” She vowed to sign the legislation, if passed.

If enacted, Michigan would join 20 other states that protect individuals from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“This 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,” 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.”

Attorney General Dana Nessel issued a statement after the legislation was introduced: “Every Michigander deserves equal protection under the law. For too long we’ve allowed discriminatory practices to be carried out against members of the LGBTQ community. Michigan law currently allows for LGBTQ people to be denied housing, a meal at a local restaurant, essential health care services and even a good-paying job.

“By expanding the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to irrefutably include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes, we are saying all people in our state deserve to be treated equally and fairly — the very intent of this law when it was established. This legislation is common sense and it’s the right thing to do. I look forward to working with our partners in the legislature to ensure Michigan finally provides adequate protections to the LGBTQ community.”

A 2014 effort to expand the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to cover the LGBTQ community ultimately failed despite support from business leaders and advocacy groups around the state.

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 remain 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.

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