In a move that demonstrates the Democratic principle of fairness for all, lawmakers seek update to Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.
In a press conference today, members of the House and Senate Democratic caucuses urged an update of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA) that will protect Michiganders from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Placing LGBT Michiganders under the protections of the ELCRA will give them the same protections that already exist for Michiganders on the basis of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight or marital status, ensuring that Michigan is welcoming and fair to all of its citizens.
Representative Jon Hoadley called extending legal protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Michiganders “a matter of basic fairness.”
The time is right to bring Michigan’s critically important civil rights laws into the modern age. No one in our state should have to fear losing their job or losing their home because of who they love or how they look.
The bill continues an effort to update the ELCRA that started last year. While Democrats offered a bill that promised legal protection to the entire LGBT community, Republicans favored a bill that would have excluded transgender people from inclusion in the ELCRA. Ultimately, neither bill made it through the Legislature.
Senator Rebekah Warren underscored the importance of protecting everyone’s civil rights:
We are long overdue in updating ELCRA and we cannot let fear or misinformation divide us as we work to secure these critical legal protections for all Michiganders. Now is the time to move this legislation forward to make sure that no one is left behind, including Michigan’s transgender citizens.
Legislative Democrats said the legal protections are necessary because members of the LGBT community are being fired, losing their housing and subjected to acts of violence simply because of who they love or how they identify themselves.
There’s also the issue of Michigan Republicans’ continued efforts to pass legislation that would allow discrimination against LGBT people, such as so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA) bills that would permit laws to be ignored if an individual or entity such as an adoption agency has a religious objection. RFRA laws can hurt everyone, but without civil rights protection the LGBT community is most at risk.
Senator Curtis Hertel made the case for extending equal protections to all Michiganders.
We can’t afford to stand by as our friends and neighbors in the LGBT community lose their jobs or their homes. Most of us do not need a law to do the right thing. Unfortunately, some employers will only treat every employee fairly when the law requires it. Updating the law won’t end all unfair treatment overnight, but it could be one more tool to ensure that all people who work hard and do their jobs well are treated fairly and equally.
Democrats urged their Republican counterparts to join with them, pointing out that Michigan stands to benefit if the protections are extended to the LGBT community. Many business leaders across the state, from CEOs of major corporations to owners of small businesses, have said that Michigan’s economy will benefit if our state is known as an open, welcoming place to do business.
If nothing else will appeal to Republicans who have been reluctant to extend equality to LGBT Michiganders, making the case that businesses benefit from inclusion might.
From Representative Sam Singh:
Our state’s business leaders have sent us a clear message: Making Michigan a state that is fair and inclusive is good for business. When we bring Michigan’s LGBT community under the protection of our state’s civil rights law, everyone wins. That’s why we urge our colleagues to join with us and make a statement that Michigan values all of its citizens, and that our state is open for business.
At the press conference, the legislators were joined by East Lansing Mayor Nathan Triplett, Washtenaw County Commissioner Andy LaBarre, transgender advocate Roz Keith and Detroit resident Bré Campbell, who spoke to the need to make Michigan fair and welcoming to all of its citizens.
Let your elected officials know you support expanding the ELCRA to include LGBT Michiganders. Contact them directly, sign the petition at miequalitynow.com or take to social media using the hashtag #MIfairness.