It’s a brand new era in the Michigan Statehouse, where the newly flipped, Democratic-led legislature charged out of the gate yesterday, promising on the first day of the new 2023 legislative session to start working right away on amending the state’s civil rights act to include LGBTQ+ protections.
The Michigan House of Representatives and the Michigan Senate introduced bills that would amend the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA) to include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression as protected classes. While the state’s Supreme Court ruled in 2022 that the ELCRA does, in fact, extend to provide these protections, the new ELCRA amendment would help shield those protections from future legal maneuvers aimed at reversing the Court’s decision.
The new legislature also took quick aim at Michigan’s 1931 abortion law with bills that would finally repeal the law, which stands in opposition to the Reproductive Freedom for All Amendment, ratified into the state’s constitution in December. That amendment, approved by Michigan voters, guarantees the right to abortion in Michigan.
Michigan leaders seem energized by the news.
In a statement, Jay Kaplan, staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan’s LGBTQ+ project, said, “Thank you to Michigan lawmakers who recognize it is time that Michigan civil rights law explicitly protect all people in Michigan from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. This amendment to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act would cement equality into the law for LGBTQ+ people in Michigan, including in employment, housing, education, public accommodations, public services, and other aspects of daily life. Everyone has the right to live their authentic lives safely and freely in Michigan and beyond.”Newly elected openly gay state rep Jason Hoskins, who introduced the ELCRA legislation in the house, tweeted, "Busy first week of session and some exciting news -- I've introduced legislation that will expand the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include the LGBTQ+ community."
Busy first week of session and some exciting news -- I’ve introduced legislation that will expand the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include the LGBTQ+ community. Proud to have this be one of this first bills introduced this term (1/2) pic.twitter.com/moPxjoiE7C— Jason Hoskins (@JasonMHoskins) January 13, 2023
Openly lesbian Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, who argued before the Michigan Supreme Court last year in the ELCRA case, tweeted, “I applaud the introduction of legislation by Sen Jeremy Moss & Rep Jason Hoskins that will codify into law protections for the LGBTQ+ community against discrimination, enshrine them for future generations and provide dignity for hundreds of thousands of Michiganders.”
I applaud the introduction of legislation by Sen Jeremy Moss & Rep Jason Hoskins that will codify into law protections for the LGBTQ+ community against discrimination, enshrine them for future generations and provide dignity for hundreds of thousands of Michiganders. pic.twitter.com/dDsRnTAJtt— Dana Nessel (@dananessel) January 11, 2023
Nessel’s office released a statement that read in part, “Given the current state of our country’s judiciary, where high courts have succumbed to political pressure and overturned long-standing and even court-tested decisions like Roe v. Wade, it is imperative that these rights are enshrined in Michigan law to help them withstand future legal attacks.”
“When adopted by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Whitmer, ELCRA will clearly define and recognize the rights of Michigan’s LGBTQ+ community, and I applaud the 102nd Legislature for introducing bills on the very first day of session that will do just that. Our residents deserve to live in a state that recognizes their value, protects their dignity, and welcomes all.”
Gov. Whitmer also tweeted about the historical significance of the 102nd Michigan legislative session. “It’s the first day of work for Michigan’s 102nd Legislature! Doesn’t matter if you’ve got an R or a D by your name, we’re going to work together to get things done for Michiganders and put our state on a path to a bright future,” she wrote. In a second tweet, Whitmer added, “...but we’re also making some history today! Michigan’s 102nd legislature includes:
The first African American speaker of the House.
The first woman majority leader.
The first LGBT person serving as Senate president pro tempore.
Welcome, all. Let’s get it done for Michigan!”
...but we’re also making some history today! Michigan’s 102nd legislature includes: The first African American speaker of the House. The first woman majority leader. The first LGBT person serving as Senate president pro tempore.Welcome, all. Let’s get it done for Michigan!— Governor Gretchen Whitmer (@GovWhitmer) January 11, 2023
Equality Michigan Executive Director Erin Knott wrote in a statement about the importance of codifying the ELCRA Michigan Supreme Court decision that “...legislative action will solidify these groundbreaking pro-equality victories."
“At the same time," she continued, "many LGBTQ+ people still face harassment and mistreatment in many other areas of life. LGBTQ+ people of color — particularly Black transgender women — face even high rates of discrimination and violence. This is why we must amend the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity. Today’s action by legislators sends a clear message that discrimination has no home in our state.”