LANSING — A large contingent of Michigan’s business community has come out in favor of a ballot initiative that would ask voters to amend Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include discrimination protections for both sexual orientation and gender identity. The ballot initiative drive is the work of Fair and Equal Michigan — a coalition of LGBTQ+ leaders, activists and allies working to get secure these rights.
“LGTBQ Michiganders still face discrimination in local employment, education, housing and public accommodations and we must act to right this wrong,” Trevor Thomas, co-chair of Fair and Equal Michigan, said in a statement. “We applaud these organizations who join business and economic leaders across the state to make Michigan a welcoming place for all.”
Endorsing Fair and Equal Michigan are the Bay Area Chamber, Flint & Genesee Group, Jackson Chamber, Lansing Regional Chamber, Midland Business Alliance, Saginaw Chamber, Traverse Connect, Detroit Regional Chamber, Ann Arbor / Ypsilanti Regional Chamber and Southwest Michigan First. The Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber and the Detroit Regional Chamber had already announced support earlier. Many say that supporting equality is good for business.
“One way we can attract and retain great talent in Michigan is to recognize that talent comes from all walks of life,” Veronica Horn, president and CEO of the Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce said in a statement. “As a state, we need to make sure that everyone feels welcome here and that they can work in a career without worry of being dismissed because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. We must compete for this talent.”
Warren Call, president and CEO of Traverse Connect said, “Northern Michigan is competing on a national level to welcome the best and brightest talent to our region, and the proposed amendment to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act is critical to this effort.”
These chambers join a long list of businesses and labor unions who support Fair and Equal Michigan including the AFL-CIO, SEIU Michigan, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, General Motors, Ford and Consumers Energy.
Many LGBTQ+ organizations and advocacy groups have expressed support as well including the Detroit Regional LGBT Chamber of Commerce, Equality Michigan Action, Fair Michigan, GLAAD, the Jim Toy Community Center, Motor City Pride and the Trans Sistas of Color Project.
Six years ago the group, then called Fair Michigan, proposed amending the state constitution to protect LGBTQ+ people via ballot measure. The idea, while staunchly supported by some, raised concerns for some who said that minority civil rights should never be put to a majority vote.
In a 2015 editorial in BTL, Stephanie White, then director of Equality Michigan, wrote, “We want to believe that our friends and neighbors will support us this time, but unfortunately we don’t really know if they will. It is a gamble. And like most gambling, it could produce a big payoff, or it could produce a painful cost.”
However, ongoing legislative efforts to amend the Act have been unsuccessful for decades due to Republican majority opposition, thus prompting Fair and Equal Michigan to seek this change through a ballot initiative.
For more information about Fair Michigan visit fairandequalmichigan.com.