LGBT, Michigan Republicans, Rick Snyder — June 7, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Gov. Snyder’s agenda is all about jobs, except when it isn’t. Won’t commit to extending workplace protection to the LGBT community.


What does ‘not on my agenda’ actually mean? I can never remember…

Rick Snyder’s self-described “relentless positive action” to make Michigan a better place to live and a more prosperous state does not apply to the LGBT community, despite the damage our anti-gay laws are doing to our economy. He was recently asked about extending civil rights protections to members of the LGBT community who can now be fired or face other workplace discrimination because of their sexual orientation in Michigan. His response was basically “not on my agenda”.

The governor was asked if he favors including gays and lesbians under the state’s civil rights law. He did not take a stance, either way. “I’m staying focused on jobs, kids and seniors at this point. I appreciate legislators looking at lots of issues and if they want to address that, that’s okay,” said Governor Snyder.

The truth is, however, that you cannot look at the growth of Michigan’s economy that will lead to more jobs without acknowledging that our current laws are making things worse.

A study by the governor’s own Department of Civil Rights (pdf) show the myriad ways that our economy is harmed by the discrimination inherent in the current law, the Elliott Larsen Act:

Businesses with inclusive non-discrimination policies are better able to attract top talent. Analysis of corporate non-discrimination statements from Fortune 500 companies suggests that the main rationale that motivates companies to adopt such policies is that they help recruit and retain a talented workforce and thus gain a competitive advantage. {…}

[D]ata suggest that businesses with inclusive non-discrimination policies are more attractive to a wider pool of applicants and more likely to attract talent from diverse segments of the workforce.

Besides making Michigan less competitive with other states for talented workers, the study points out other areas in which we handicap our economy by discrimination against the LGBT community:

  • More frequent turnover when employees are “fired, encouraged to leave, or choose to leave because of an inhospitable work environment”
  • Negative impacts on “employee productivity, effectiveness and performance”
  • Loss of profits due to alienation of LGBT consumers
  • Diminished tourism dollars being spent in the state
  • Lower tax revenues due to unemployed LGBT Michiganders who may also receive public assistance after losing their jobs
  • Loss of population as people move to more tolerant states, particularly of well-educated residents

Despite this clear evidence, Governor Snyder is unwilling to take a stance on the issue, much less push for inclusion of workplace protections for the LGBT community by amending the Elliott-Larsen Act.

Equality Michigan Managing Director Emily Dievendorf issued the following statement:

Governor Snyder has made a shocking change in priorities by ignoring the economic gains of modernizing Michigan’s antiquated anti-discrimination laws to keep pace with other states. The legalized firing of people from their jobs simply for being LGBT is harming families around the state and costing Michigan’s economy and employers millions of dollars. Equality Michigan calls on Governor Snyder to join the majority of voters supporting bills that provide equal legal protections to LGBT Michiganders from being fired for who they are and who they love.

Ironically, it may be lawmakers from Governor Snyder’s own party who push for these reforms. Michigan Public Radio reports that Frank Foster, a young legislator from Petoskey, may soon introduce legislation to reform the Elliott-Larsen Act:

A few weeks ago, here on It’s Just Politics, we called out Democrats for missing a messaging opportunity by not proposing, as Democrats have for the past several sessions, legislation to add sexual orientation or sexual identity protections to Michigan’s civil rights law, the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. Well, mea culpa, because there is more to this story.

We are not seeing proposals from Democrats to change adoption laws, or civil rights protections for LGBT people because these are actual policy changes that are within reach. LGBT rights supporters asked Democrats to stay away from this one because the landscape is changing as more Republicans are open to the idea of adding at least some LGBT civil rights protections in housing and employment.

And, now, there is a Republican lawmaker ready to sponsor the bill: State Representative Frank Foster. At 26 years old – the ‘Gen Y’ Republican from Petoskey has some influence. He chairs the House Commerce Committee; he’s considered an up-and-comer. He is circulating draft legislation for co-sponsorship. This matters because a Republican like Foster – in the majority party – is a lot more likely to get a bill passed through the Legislature than a Democrat.

The irony in this is that Frank Foster has a history of anti-woman behavior. In May of 2012, Foster publicly called Michigan Nurses Association staffer Julia Smith-Heck a “cunt” for mowing her lawn (I’m not kidding.)

Julia Smith-Heck (r) and Elizabeth Pellerito

Yet, even a sexist Republican like Foster can see the handwriting on the wall and realize that the LGBT rights ship is sailing and Republicans need to decide if they’ll be on it or left on the dock to stew in their own bigotry and political irrelevancy.

Once again, Governor Snyder, I ask you to join the rest of us in the 21st Century. Evolve already. You can even do it in a relentlessly positive way if that makes you happy.

[Caricature by DonkeyHotey from photos by Anne C. Savage for Eclectablog]