By BTL Staff
LANSING – Members of the Michigan House and Senate Democratic caucuses Wednesday urged an update to 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 gives LGBT citizens the same protections that already exist for Michiganders on the basis of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight or marital status.
"Extending legal protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Michiganders is a matter of basic fairness," said State Rep. Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo). "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. Ultimately, neither bill made it through the Legislature.
"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," Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) said. "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 subjected to firings, losing their housing and subjected to acts of violence simply because of who they love or how they identify themselves.
"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," State Sen. Curtis Hertel (D-Meridian Township) said. "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."
Urging their counterparts across the aisle to join with them to update the ECLRA, Democrats said 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.
"Our state's business leaders have sent us a clear message. Making Michigan a state that is fair and inclusive is good for business," State Rep. Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) said. "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."
"Serving Canton, one of the 38 local municipalities that recently passed a nondiscrimination ordinance, I am especially proud that this ordinance was passed by a Republican majority," said State Rep. Kristy Pagan (D-Canton). "This shows that ending discrimination is a matter of basic rights and all of our communities will be stronger because of it."