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LANSING — LGBT activists breathed a sigh of relief when a provision that could have invalidated all 38 LGBT inclusive anti-discrimination ordinances in Michigan was removed from the final version of a bill passed 11-7 by the House Commerce and Trade Committee May 19. The Republican sponsors of the original version of the “Local Government Employer Mandate Prohibition Act” claimed they were simply trying to unify employment practices across the state.
In the final version passed out of committee, communities will not be allowed to pass ordinances regarding wages, benefits or working conditions in their towns. The bill was introduced last year in the Legislature but stalled when local officials objected because it also prohibits communities from negotiating community benefits packages with businesses that are getting tax credits from towns. Such agreements dictate some of the terms of what developers do in communities, like hiring local residents for example.
“This bill is an unprecedented intrusion into the local control of Michigan cities,” East Lansing Mayor Nathan Triplett wrote on his Facebook, announcing the bill passed out of committee. “It flies in the face of both our State Constitution and a long history of home rule. Communities must be allowed to enact ordinances that reflect the values of their citizens. The one bright spot is that the bill was amended in committee to clarify that it does not prohibit a local government from adopting an ordinance prohibiting employment discrimination. That means that, for the moment, Michigan’s 38 local nondiscrimination ordinances are safe from preemption.”
East Lansing was the first city to enact a municipal ordinance adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes under the city’s civil rights ordinance. Grand Rapids is the latest municipality added to the list of now 38 cities across the state to have LGBT protections added to city civil rights ordinances.
Rep. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, is one of seven Democrats on the 19 member committee and also sits on the Local Government Committee. He called out Rep. Earl Poleski, R-Jackson, the sponsor of the bill, at the committee meeting May 12, bringing to light the hypocrisy of the recently proposed GOP legislation.
“How come when it comes to the Supreme Court, we have to hold onto our local customs and values but we totally disregard local customs and values of our local municipalities?” Moss said, referring to right-wing objections to so-called judicial interference in local jurisdiction in the marriage equality case now before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Michigan has two other anti-LGBT bills currently pending a vote. The Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act (HB 5958), which is similar to the RFRA bill passed in Indiana, and a three-bill package that passed out of the Senate Families Seniors and Human Services Committee that would allow for faith-based adoption agencies to refuse to serve prospective parents based on their religious beliefs.