Last year, Governor Snyder was asked about revising Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to extend coverage to members of the LGBT community. The fact that it currently doesn’t means that people like me can be fired from our jobs simply because we are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Governor Snyder’s response was, in effect, “it’s not on my agenda” and he said he was waiting for action from the legislature on this.
As I wrote then, there is plenty of evidence that maintaining this discriminatory environment for the LGBT community is harming our economic recovery. A study by Gov. Snyder’s own administration lays it out plainly. By not protecting our LGBT citizens, we unnecessarily handicap ourselves in a variety of ways:
- There is more frequent turnover when employees are “fired, encouraged to leave, or choose to leave because of an inhospitable work environment”
- There are negative impacts on “employee productivity, effectiveness and performance”
- There is a loss of profits due to alienation of LGBT consumers
- We experience diminished tourism dollars being spent in the state
- We have lower tax revenues due to unemployed LGBT Michiganders who may also receive public assistance after losing their jobs
- We see a loss of population as people move to more tolerant states, particularly of well-educated residents
This past week, Gov. Snyder doubled down on his complete lack of leadership on this issue. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, he had this to say about another civil right that is denied to the LGBT community: marriage equality:
It’s not really relevant, because, again, the way I view it, if this was a policy issue, a legislative issue, it would be relevant.
So much for “positive relentless action” in the interest of creating “more and better jobs”. Members of the LGBT community who live in Michigan are far less likely to stay here and those considering a move to Michigan are far less likely to do so if they aren’t allowed to marry, particularly since it is now legal so many other states. It’s just one more civil right that our LGBT citizens are kept from enjoying in Michigan.
Evidence that our anti-LGBT environment in Michigan is having negative impact was shown in clear relief in a recent op-ed in the Detroit Free Press by soon-to-graduate University of Michigan Student Chris Osborn. His piece, titled “The price Michigan pays for its intolerance toward gay people”, tells the story of one gay man who is having to make a tough decision:
In less than a week, I will graduate from the University of Michigan and have many important life decisions to make. The most important of those is where I choose to start my career and, ultimately, start a family. For many students, salary level, industry and growth opportunities are among the biggest factors when determining their first employer. For those entering the work force who are openly gay, like myself, there is a fundamental “other” factor.
As it stands, the state of Michigan does not offer workplace protection for LGBT persons, meaning that in most regions in Michigan, your boss can fire you simply for being gay or transgender.
I would love to put my roots down in Michigan. I want to continue contributing to Michigan’s growth, but I also have to consider what is best for my future family and best for me. I cannot live in a state that does not offer me security in employment, especially when so many other states do. No one wants to go to work knowing their boss has the power to fire them for something that has no bearing on their ability to do their job.
Ten employers in Michigan have teamed up to push lawmakers to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s civil rights protections.
Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act of 1976 prohibits discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status, but not sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.
“We need to find ways in Michigan to keep and attract talent, and there are some barriers to that and this happens to be one of them,” said AT&T Michigan President Jim Murray.
The Michigan Competitive Workforce Coalition is made up of a Who’s Who of Michigan-based businesses:
- Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
- Consumers Energy
- The Dow Chemical Company
- Herman Miller
- Southwest Michigan First
- Strategic Staffing Solutions
Most of the members of the MCWC are also part of the Business Leaders for Michigan coalition of Michigan CEOs and other chairpersons and Board members. Their membership list is impressive. BLM has also issued a call for amending the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act:
A group of the state’s top CEOs says Michigan should ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Business Leaders for Michigan made that suggestion and many others in its 2014 plan to improve the economy and make the state a top 10 economic competitor nationwide.
The recommendation is listed along with attracting skilled immigrants and expanding cultural exchange programs as ways to “make Michigan an aspirational destination by being a welcoming place to all.”
“We just think that to be attracting population, we looked at it from a talent perspective, and most of our employers already have policies in place that deal with this, so we just felt it was a natural to put in in the plan,” said Doug Rothwell, president and CEO of BLM, a group of more than 80 Michigan CEOs and executives representing nearly a quarter of the state’s economy.
It’s perplexing that Gov. Snyder, who so often caters to the corporate community in nearly everything he does, is ignoring these calls for bringing Michigan into the 21st Century and thinks that the issue of LGBT civil rights is “not really relevant”. It’s not only relevant, it’s key component for ensuring our state’s economic recovery.
Must be Dick DeVos and his other wealthy benefactors are not on board with the business community as a whole. Because, as we all know, nothing happens in our state government under Rick Snyder’s “leadership” unless Dick DeVos says it can happen.
Meanwhile, Gov. Snyder and his Attorney General continue to waste our precious tax dollars trying to defend our bigoted ban on same-sex marriage in Michigan.
All of that changes on November 4th.