LANSING – On Oct. 5, anti-gay MI State House Rep. Thomas McMillin (R-Rochester) introduced a bill that would in effect negate all local ordinances protecting LGBT people from discrimination. It also would negate any protections that state universities, school districts or any other state agency has for LGBT people, and make it impossible for any local or state agency protections to be passed in the future.
If passed, House Bill 5039 would amend the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, passed in 1976, to limit protected classes to only those that are currently covered in the original legislation. Sexual orientation and gender identity are not protected classes under the current law.
“This bill is one of the most appalling pieces of legislation we’ve seen come out of Lansing so far. It’s a direct attack on the well-crafted local ordinances around the state that go above and beyond state law,” said Denise Brogan-Kator, executive director of Equality Michigan, a statewide organization that advocates for LGBT rights. “It also aims to exclude local voters from the democratic process. Local nondiscrimination ordinances are important – they send a crucial message that everyone, including LGBT people, should have a fair chance at a job. We need everyone who believes in equality to stand up and oppose this bill.”
“I think McMillin’s proposed legislation raises a number of legal issues,” said Jay Kaplan, staff attorney for Michigan’s ACLU’s LGBT Project. “Under Michigan’s constitution, municipalities have the right to ‘adopt resolutions and ordinance relating to its municipal concerns,’ which clearly includes the right to pass human rights ordinances that provide for anti-discrimination protections that include categories in addition to those in Michigan Civil Rights laws.”
Kaplan said the legislature has to decide if they support the concept of home rule as enshrined in the state constitution.
“Why is the legislature seeking to micromanage local communities to tell them that there is limit to how much ‘fairness’ they can provide to their residents? It does seem hypocritical for the legislative majority to speak of local control and home rule when it comes to anti-bullying policies, then to try to take it away when it comes to civil rights for unprotected groups, like LGBT people,” said Kaplan.
McMillin’s bill is just the last in his long line of anti-LGBT obsessions. From 1994 to 1997 he was the field director for the Michigan Christian Coalition. In 2000, McMillin was heavily involved in the defeat of Ferndale’s LGBT-inclusive Human Rights Ordinance where he was the treasurer of Oakland County Residents for Equal Rights Not Special Rights. The committee was heavily funded by the American Family Association and sent mail and made phone calls to voters encouraging them to vote down the ordinance.
When Royal Oak took up a similar ordinance, McMillin and his Special Rights group emerged again. That ordinance was defeated as well.
As an Oakland County Commissioner in 2003, McMillin sponsored and passed a resolution in support of the constitutional amendment banning marriage for same-sex couples. Similar resolutions were then introduced, and largely passed, by county commissions throughout Michigan.
HOUSE BILL No. 5039 language
October 5, 2011, Introduced by Rep. McMillin and referred to the Committee on Judiciary.
A bill to amend 1976 PA 453, entitled “Elliott-Larsen civil rights act,” (MCL 37.2101 to 37.2804) by adding section 706.
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN ENACT:
Sec. 706. (1) A state agency or unit of local government shall not adopt any ordinance, rule, regulation, or policy that includes, as a protected class, any classification not specifically included as a protected class under this act. Any existing ordinance, rule, regulation, or policy that includes, as a protected class, any classification not specifically included as a protected class under this act is void.
(2) As used in this section: (a) “State agency” means a department, board, commission, office, agency, authority, or other unit of state government. (b) “Unit of local government” means a political subdivision of this state, including a city, village, township, county, authority, school district, community college district, intermediate school district, and public school academy.
What you can do right now
Sign a petition to The Michigan State Senate and Governor Rick Snyder, which says:
“The Michigan House of Representatives recently passed HB 4770, The Public Employee Domestic Partner Benefits Restriction Act, and HB 4771, an amendment to 1947 PA 336. These bills are not only morally reprehensible but are also economically myopic.
The extension of benefits to domestic partners is an increasing trend in the private and public sector both nationally and internationally. To implement this policy would drive gay and gay-friendly staff and faculty out of Michigan’s universities to states with more acceptable benefit laws in place. Additionally, prohibiting the collective bargaining for domestic partner benefits would affect a hostile, anti-union environment that would be prohibitive for recruiting the new employees with the appropriate level of skill, training, and experience necessary to replace those lost in the exodus that would result from this legislation. Simply put, this legislation would be yet another staggering blow to Michigan’s punch-drunk economy.
The intention of this legislation represents nothing less than an unconscionable attack on the rights of Michigan’s gay and lesbian citizens. This legislation purposefully and disproportionately affects the ability of individuals of a minority sexual orientation to access affordable healthcare. Furthermore, the amendment proposed in HB 4771 that restricts the ability of public employees to bargain collectively for the extension of benefits to domestic partners advances an anti-union agenda at the expense of an already oft-abused and marginalized population.
We call on our elected officials in the Michigan Senate to protect the Michigan economy by defending Michigan’s public employees without regard to sexual orientation or marital status. We ask that our senators vote against the discriminatory and gay-bashing Public Employee Domestic Partner Benefits Restriction Act (HB 4770) when it comes before the Michigan Senate. We ask that our senators demonstrate their foresight and moral fiber in preserving access to affordable medical benefits for the domestic partners of Michigan’s public employees. Further, we urge Governor Snyder to condemn this gay-bashing legislation with a promise of veto should it come to his desk.”
Sign this petition here:
You can also email members of this committee (and their districts):
Sen Mark Jansen (28) – Chair
Sen Patrick Colbeck (7) – VC
Sen Coleman A. Young II (1) – MVC
Sen Tom Casperson (38)
email form on his webpage:
Sen Mike Kowall (15)
Sen David B. Robertson (26)
Sen Rebekeh Warren (18)
Second Bill also introduced
On Oct. 5, a group of 34 conservative State House Republicans introduced a bill that would penalize colleges and universities if counseling students are required to provide services to all students. The bill would permit students to refuse to counsel a client if doing so conflicts with a student’s religious belief or moral conviction.
The proposed act, known as the Julea Ward Freedom of Conscience Act, is named after the Eastern Michigan University former graduate counseling student who sued the school for dismissing her from the program because she refused to counsel a gay student and affirm his relationship. Ward’s refusal, she told her supervisors, was due to her religious beliefs.
Ward lost her suit against EMU in federal court last year.
Walter Kraft, EMU’s VP for Communications, explained that EMU’s dismissal of Ward was not about LGBT issues or religion, but was about what is in the best interest of a client who is in need of counseling, and following the Code of Ethics of the American Counseling Association and the Ethical Standards of the American School Counselor Association. Those Ethical Standards require that counselors are not to allow their personal values to intrude into their professional work.
“As one of the premiere teacher-training institutions in the United States, Eastern Michigan University takes seriously our Constitutional mission to ensure that every student who graduates from our academic programs meets applicable curricular and regulatory requirements. We will continue to pursue and defend this mission at every opportunity,” said Kraft.
“It’s very dangerous to have the legislature micromanage public universities’ curriculums that not only interfere with the university’s autonomy, but could very well jeopardize their accreditation,” said Jay Kaplan, staff attorney at the Michigan ACLU’s LGBT project. “It raises constitutional concerns, and once again brings up the question of why? Why when we need our leaders to focus on the problems inherent in Michigan’s economy are they wasting time and tax payers’ money on legislation like this?”
Kraft strongly defended EMU’s position in the ward case. “The July 2010 ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan dismissed the entire case against EMU – all six claims against 17 defendants,” said Kraft. “The Court’s ruling reflected strong views on the case, as conveyed in this particular section: ‘Plaintiff has distorted the facts in this case to support her position that defendants dismissed her due to her religious beliefs.'”
HOUSE BILL No. 5040 language
October 5, 2011, Introduced by Reps. Haveman, Rogers, Kowall, Daley, Pscholka, Heise, Shirkey, Hooker, Kurtz, Bumstead, Jenkins, Shaughnessy, Poleski, O’Brien, Knollenberg, MacMaster, Gilbert, Genetski, Franz, McMillin, Walsh, MacGregor, Huuki, Rendon, Lyons, Price, Johnson, Damrow, Foster, Olumba, Roy Schmidt, Yonker, Opsommer and Olson and referred to the Committee on Education.
A bill to protect the right of a student to assert conscientious objection to providing certain counseling or other services; to prohibit certain actions by institutions of higher education; and to provide remedies.
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN ENACT:
Sec. 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the “Julea Ward freedom of conscience act”.
Sec. 3. A public or private degree or certificate granting college, university, junior college, or community college of this state shall not discipline or discriminate against a student in a counseling, social work, or psychology program because the student refuses to counsel or serve a client as to goals that conflict with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of the student, if the student refers the client to a counselor who will provide the counseling or services
Sec. 5. (1) A person who alleges a violation of this act may bring a civil action for appropriate injunctive relief, or actual damages, or both within 90 days after the occurrence of the alleged violation of this act.
(2) An action commenced under subsection (1) may be brought in the circuit court for the county where the alleged violation occurred, the county where the complainant resides, or the county where the educational institution is located.
(3) As used in this section, “damages” means compensation for injury or loss caused by each violation of this act, including reasonable attorney fees.