Civil Rights Commission urged to amend Elliot-Larsen

By | 2002-04-12T09:00:00-04:00 April 12th, 2002|Uncategorized|

FARMINGTON – Jeffrey Montgomery, executive director of the Triangle Foundation, addressed the Michigan Civil Rights Commission at their Nov. 22 meeting in Dearborn and urged them to endorse amending Michigan’s civil rights law to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
Montgomery first thanked the Commission for endorsing a NO vote on Proposal 2. “I want to acknowledge the principled stand that this commission took in opposing Proposal 2,” said Montgomery. “Thank you for that. Along with virtually every daily newspaper in the state, leading unions, and some decent religious leadership you recognized that amending the state constitution to be exclusive and to allow … discrimination was a bad idea.”
Montgomery told the Commission that Michigan voters were tricked by proponents of the measure, who were not honest about their intentions. “The anti-gay forces, led by the likes of the AFA, ran a campaign based on the lie that they were only concerned about one-man, one-woman marriage, when all along their plot was not only to relegate gays and lesbians to ignominious second-class status in Michigan, but to do so in such a total assault as to erase our community out of existence,” said Montgomery. “The passage of Proposal 2 had no moral value whatsoever.”
Despite the passage of Proposal 2, said Montgomery, gays and lesbians would continue to fight for equal treatment in Michigan. He then addressed the issue of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, which protects against discrimination in the areas of housing, employment, and public accommodations and does not include sexual orientation or gender identity.
“We respectfully request that the Commission formally endorse the ten years of effort led by Triangle Foundation and state legislators with a progressive vision for Michigan, to finally amend the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity. This omission has been left uncorrected for far too long. Amending Elliott-Larsen would go a long way to make many things better in this state, especially as we try and come to terms with the outrageous injustice that a minority have suffered at the hand of a misled, misguided and mistaken majority.”
Anti-gay incidents have increased since the passage of Proposal 2, Montgomery said. “My community is scared and angry. We wonder who lurks around us that are among those of our fellow citizens who passed such quick judgment on our families, our loved ones and ourselves. Who among us in a crowd felt such a strong need to blatantly vote discrimination against people they did not know – will they be as easily led to do us physical harm, too?”
Speaking to BTL, Montgomery said he thought it was important to address the Commission at this local meeting. “The Civil Rights Commission has been one of the most consistent allies that we have in state government, even during the Engler administration,” said Montgomery. “We just thought that it was important that this first meeting following the election to go back to them as soon as we could and acknowledge their support of the NO vote, but also just to let them know that our feeling is that Michigan has become a riskier place now, that the negative impact of [Proposal 2] is certainly going to be with us for quite some time.”
Getting sexual orientation and gender discrimination included in Elliott-Larsen has been a nearly decade long battle. For the past ten years, Montgomery said, an amendment to the civil rights act has been introduced in the legislature, but has gone nowhere under the Republican leadership.
Montgomery said that the language of Elliott-Larsen impacts anti-discrimination policies across the state. “It is the basic civil rights law of the state and it is from that law that so many other policies come and so many other things are dictated,” he said. “So much comes from that language that it’s really an essential place to be recognized and protected.”
Montgomery feels more confidant now than ever before about its potential to pass. “When the new legislature reconvenes we’ll have the legislation introduced again,” said Montgomery. “And I really believe that, in a strange kind of way as a result of the whole Proposal 2 thing, we can really make a different level of effort to get better action on that [amendment]. I’m confident that we will be able to get progress and maybe even get that amendment in pretty soon. Because of the kinds of momentum and increased level of activism of people in the community Elliott-Larsen is a really doable thing at this point.”

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