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LANSING – In her second attempt to amend The Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act of 1976, Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) announced Thursday new legislation that would prohibit employers, landlords, and others in Michigan from discriminating based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.
“It’s still true in Michigan that people can be evicted from their place of residence, they can be fired from their job that they hold based on their sexual orientation or someone else’s perception of their sexual orientation and this is something we need to fix,” said Warren during yesterday’s press conference at the State Capitol Building in Lansing.
The Democratic lawmaker was joined by her allies – members of Unity Michigan Coalition and Professor Peter Hammer, Director of the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights at Wayne State University Law School – to introduce the legislation. Unity Michigan Coalition includes the ACLU of Michigan, Affirmations Gay and Lesbian Community Center, Equality Michigan, KICK, the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, and The Ruth Ellis Center.
According to a report by MLive, Warren said public awareness and opinions have changed, noting a statewide poll of likely voters released in February 2011 that found two-thirds favored anti-discrimination legislation. In addition, Unity Michigan Coalition pointed out that about 20 states have various anti-discrimination ordinances that include LGBT people.
The bill faces a tough fight as this is Warren’s second attempt to amend the Act, which prohibits discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status, but not sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.
Three years ago, the same legislation passed out of the judiciary committee, but never received a vote on the House floor. As a result, MLive reported that Warren is rebranding the message that providing protections for LGBT people isn’t just about fairness and equality, but also about economics.
If signed into law, the bill would not supersede local ordinances that provide higher level protections but would overrule any local ordinances that are in opposition to this bill. This includes HB 5039 introduced by State Rep. Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills) in Oct. 2011 to outlaw local gay rights ordinances like the ones already in place in 18 Michigan communities. If approved it would prohibit municipalities from extending special rights to those not covered by the Act, specifically LGBT people.
But Warren said she’s hoping more lawmakers are beginning to realize that such protections are needed to make Michigan attractive to top talent and businesses from around the globe. She said the state “needs to send the message” that it won’t stand for discrimination of any kind.