When Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed off on the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act Amendment, enshrining LGBTQ+ discrimination protections into law in March, the occasion marked a long-fought victory for equality in the state. But focusing state resources on equity initiatives isn’t just the right thing to do. The Democratic-led push for LGBTQ+ rights has also launched Michigan into a potentially lucrative new era in a fiscal sense — post amendment, opportunities abound for attracting and retaining equality-minded businesses and talented individuals ready to pour their energies into revitalizing the Great Lakes State.
Michigan becoming a more visible LGBTQ+ ally could have a positive impact on our state’s economy, and here’s why.
1. LGBTQ-friendly states attract talented workers and long-term residents.
This is especially true for recent college graduates. Responding to a 2022 survey, two thirds of LGBTQ+ Gen Z respondents born between 1996 and 2010 said they would leave their job if they couldn’t be out at work — a situation far more likely to occur in states like Tennessee and Kentucky, where fresh new anti-LGBTQ+ legislation is on the books. Seventy percent of survey respondents said they would actually return to the closet if their colleagues were not allies or supportive of them being out at work, despite 83% of them having been out during college.
Gen Z is especially focused on living in places that mirror their values, which often align with protecting LGBTQ+ folks. A 2022 Gallup poll revealed that a majority of this generation is “extremely concerned” about LGBTQ+ rights. No doubt Gov. Whitmer was speaking directly to Gen Z when she posted her viral tweet proclaiming “Michigan has a place for you,” which features a meme of Kristen Bell wearing a rainbow t-shirt and a text overlay reading “Come on in.”
Right now, there is a nationwide assault on our LGBTQ+ community, especially our trans neighbors, family, and friends. It’s dangerous, wrong, and un-American.
I want to send a message to anyone living in a state that doesn’t respect who they are: Michigan has a place for you. pic.twitter.com/kt3pJbsGfY
— Governor Gretchen Whitmer (@GovWhitmer) March 16, 2023
2. “Woke” companies invest in states that promote diversity, equity and inclusion.
More than 200 major corporations have signed on to the Human Rights Campaign and Freedom for All Americans’ Business Statement on Anti-LGBTQ+ Legislation, signaling their opposition to the wave of harmful anti-LGBTQ+ legislation that has been introduced and passed into law in several U.S. states. Signers include companies with strong Michigan ties, including General Motors, Kellogg and Dow. IBM’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, Carla Grant Pickens, told HRC the company signed the statement because “IBM strongly believes recent actions and new proposals by state governments targeting the LGBTQ community and particularly trans youth is discriminatory and wrongly creates fear and uncertainty for American families.”
3. Companies that value LGBTQ-inclusion reap financial benefits.
Recently published data from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation paints a compelling picture about the positive impact of LGBTQ-inclusion in corporate America. Research conducted by the organization found that inclusive companies attract better talent and decrease employee turnover, two key business growth factors. Moreover, the Foundation found that publicly held companies with LGBT-friendly policies have seen their stock prices increase by around 6.5% compared with similar companies. If Michigan can entice companies to leave states with anti-LGBTQ+ legislative agendas and harmful policies, we stand to benefit in the form of a healthier job market and the tax revenue these companies can bring to the state.
4. Americans are moving to states that value inclusion.
Redfin reported in 2022 that homebuyers are increasingly “voting with their feet,” migrating to places that align with their political values. One in seven recent movers polled by the real estate company said they would refuse to live in a place where abortion is fully legal, for example. On the flipside, the company predicted that pro-choice voters will more frequently seek out states that protect abortion rights. An overall expansion of “blue enclaves,” Redfin reports, is likely — and the country is certainly viewing Michigan as such a place these days. November’s election results underscored a prediction made by politico Nate Silver a few months prior, who mused about “Why a State Like Michigan Might Actually Be a Blue State.”
5. Queer travel drives in massive revenue.
Barring a slump during the Covid slowdown, tourism in Michigan has been driving in increased revenue for years, especially along the Western coast where vacationers flock from all over the world to quintessential Lake Michigan towns each summer. A more recent development across the tourism industry nationally has been a focus on attracting “pink” dollars — a term that refers to the buying power of LGBTQ+ community members and allies.
It’s an area that could use some attention in Michigan. As Pride Source reported last year, the state’s Pure Michigan tourism initiative has been roundly criticized for overlooking the community in its efforts to attract tourists, but in the shadow of the ELCRA amendment and renewed energy for the movement, we might just see a less tepid approach going forward. After all, surely the state could benefit from getting a slice of the $218 billion global LGBTQ+ travel market pie.