LANSING- In honor of National Coming Out Day, local advocacy groups launched the “Don’t Change Yourself. Change the Law” campaign Oct. 11 to raise awareness that in Michigan you can still be fired if your employer even thinks you are gay. The Unity Michigan Coalition, a group of six organizations dedicated to ensuring equality for all Michiganders, announced the campaign to urge the Michigan legislature to update the state’s nondiscrimination law, which currently doesn’t protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens against discrimination. The campaign message is: DON’T CHANGE YOURSELF. CHANGE THE LAW and it calls upon House Speaker Jase Bolger to amend the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act. It was passed in 1976 to protect Michiganders from employment and housing discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion and national origin. The Unity Michigan Coalition urges Speaker Bolger and the Michigan legislature to update this law to also protect gay and transgender people against workplace discrimination.
“Being fired because you are gay or transgender is an especially bad consequence in an economy with
10.9 percent unemployment,” said Jon Hoadley, Unity Michigan Coalition Director. “How can this be possible in 2011?”
“In this campaign we will offer tongue-in-cheek tips for dressing, social interaction and mannerisms that are sure to convey a stereotypical Not-Gay appearance at work,” said Denise Brogan-Kator, executive director at Equality Michigan. “If you’re great at your job, you shouldn’t have to change anything about yourself to keep it. What really needs to change is the law.”
Seventy-three percent of Americans support workplace equality for gay and lesbian employees, and according to a January 2011 Michigan statewide poll conducted by MRG Research, a total of 66 percent of Michiganders favor legislation to protect gay and transgender people from discrimination. “It goes inherently against our American values to fire someone based solely upon who they are or whom they love,” said Jay Kaplan, ACLU of Michigan LGBT Project staff attorney. “Across the board, the majority of Americans believe employment decisions should be based on a person’s qualifications and work ethic. It’s time for our legislature to get in step with the American public.”
“I know firsthand what it’s like to be fired from your job because of your sexual orientation and
regardless of work performance. I was fired from a school district in 2000 solely based on my sexual
orientation. In general, but especially in these tough economic times, the recruitment and retention
of talent must trump bigotry and homophobia. Everyone should have a fair chance at a good job,” said
David Garcia, a victim of workplace discrimination and executive director of Affirmations Community Center. “I’m thankful that the Unity Michigan Coalition is working hard to make sure that this does not happen to anyone else.”
Michiganders can join the campaign at http://DontChangeYourself.com, where they can add their name to the petition to Rep. Bolger, hear more stories like Garcia’s, and download Not-Gay posters, screen savers and other “Not-Gay” tips so they can be sure to have a Not-Gay appearance at work.