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BY AJ Trager
LANSING – Ten Democrats from the state Senate delivered a letter to Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof July 1 calling for a hearing on legislation that would add sexual orientation and gender identity protections to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, Michigan’s non-discrimination law.
State Senators Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor; Curtis Hertel, D-Lansing; Jim Ananich, D-Flint; Hoon-Yung Hopgood, D-Wayne County; Morris W. Hood III, D-Dearborn; Bert Johnson, D-Detroit; Steve Bieda, D-Warren; David Knezek, D-Dearborn Heights; Vincent Gregory, D-Farmington Hills; and Coleman A. Young II, D-Detroit, sent a letter to the chair of the Senate Government Operations Committee requesting that Senate Bill 315, which would update Michigan’s Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity to a list of protected classes in the state, receive a hearing before the Senate Government Operations Committee.
“As the national landscape continues to shift dramatically around LGBT equality, it has never been more clear that morally and economically, it is time to pass this legislation and ensure that no one faces discrimination because of who they are or who they love,” the letter reads. “In doing so, we will not only bring state law in line with the will of the people, but also ensure Michigan remains competitive as we work to grow our economy and put our state back on track.”
The letter includes a mention to a 2013 Michigan Department of Civil Rights study which cited numerous examples of economic benefits that could be brought on by adding sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the state’s civil rights law, including the statistic that “92 percent of businesses consider this type of civil rights protection to be good for their bottom line,” the letter reads.
Though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality on June 26, which overruled Michigan’s 2004 state ban on same-sex marriage, under current law it is still legal to be fired, denied housing or services and be the target for hate crimes for being LGBT.
There have been many attempts to amend Elliott-Larsen in recent months, including a formal statement by Gov. Snyder who stated he would not sign any Religious Freedom Restoration Bill that did not include updating the statewide protections for LGBT citizens.
Legislation has been introduced in both the state Senate and state House to amend ELCRA.