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Equality Michigan Appoints New Board Members

By |2015-10-08T09:00:00-04:00October 8th, 2015|Michigan, News|

Equality Michigan, the statewide LGBT organization, has announced four new board members. But one of those appointments is raising eyebrows.
Jim Murray, president of AT&T Michigan, was at the center of a firestorm of controversy last year as the GOP dominated Legislature tried to move on amending the state’s civil rights law, Elliott-Larsen. Advocates, including Equality Michigan, ACLU of Michigan and HRC, were all pushing for passage of a fully inclusive amendment that would encompass both sexual orientation and gender identity. However, working hand in hand with the GOP, Murray supported jettisoning gender identity for a partial compromise bill.
At the time, Murray was co-chair of the Competitive Workforce Coalition. That group was a project of the ACLU and included leaders from major corporations throughout the state. Murray supported the non-inclusive bill, drawing the ire of activists and a rebuke from AT&T national which released a statement that it would only support a fully inclusive amendment to Elliott-Larsen.
At the time, Murray made an analogy to MLive that those who were working for the law were similar to a hungry person.
“If I’m hungry, a half a pizza still looks pretty good,” he said. “I’m going to fight for whatever I can get, whatever that means.”
The legislation — both the fully inclusive measure and the trans-exclusive measure — failed to come up for vote in the state House during the lame duck session last November. Murray quit working with the Legislature and the workforce group, condemning the “abuse” he endured. Equality Michigan launched a campaign targeting him called dropthecall.com.
Murray’s cohort in pushing the “half a pizza” measure was Speaker Jase Bolger, a Marshall Republican. Bolger was term limited out of office in January 2015. But he told MIRS, a subscription based newsletter covering the state capitol, that he supported Murray’s appointment to Equality Michigan.
Bolger said Murray would bring a “common sense approach” to the board that also “brings respect to treat all people fairly. I hope they’ll listen. Human rights and constitutional protections should not be about pitting one group against another. It should be about respecting and protecting the rights of all.”
Bill Greene, interim executive director of the agency, said Murray’s appointment came about after he met with Murray.
“I approached him. I contacted him,” Greene said Tuesday by phone. “I was told he was one of the people I needed to meet because of his knowledge of the workings of Lansing.”
Those conversations ultimately led to the board inviting Murray to join. Greene said he was unclear what the conversations with the board looked like.
But MIRS interviewed Equality Michigan Board Member Chuck Otis last week. Otis told the newsletter there were “mixed thoughts” about appointing Murray, but that his talents shouldn’t be lost.
“We’re not always going to agree on tactics, and it’s foolish to lose somebody with Jim’s skill because somebody disagreed with an approach somebody took,” Otis said.
Others appointed to the Equality Michigan board include Mira Krishnan, director of the Center for Autism at Hope Network; S. Kerene Moore, a lawyer with Legal Services of South Central Michigan; and Michael Rowady, the managing attorney of a Southfield law firm.

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