State of the State: Gov. Whitmer Calls for an Amendment to ELCRA

Kate Opalewski
By | 2019-02-13T11:07:01-04:00 February 13th, 2019|Michigan, News|

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday delivered her first State of the State speech that called for an amendment to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to provide protections to LGBTQ Michiganders.
“Now Michigan government is on the right side of history because no one should get fired because of who they are or who they love,” said Whitmer, for which she received a standing ovation inside the Capitol where she spoke to a joint session of the Republican-led state House and Senate.
During her nearly hour-long speech, Whitmer pointed to the executive directive she signed in January banning state governments from discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity without religious exemptions.
“This will help me build and attract a talented, top-notch workforce in state government,” she said. “That’s precisely why the business community has pushed to extend these rights to the private sector as well. If we want Michigan to be a home for opportunity, it should be opportunity for all in all work places. We need to expand Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include protections for the LGBTQ community.”
Whitmer laid out her priorities for next year and beyond, calling the state of Michigan a “challenging place to get ahead, raise a family, and run a business.”
Yet, Whitmer said she wants to build a stronger Michigan by putting aside partisanship to get the job done for the people she serves.
“A government that doesn’t work today can’t get the job done for tomorrow. And that ends now,” said Whitmer, who addressed other issues during her speech like roads and education “crises,” government transparency, water, workforce development, and health care, to name a few.
Equality Michigan, the only statewide advocacy organization representing Michigan’s LGBT community, praised Whitmer.
“We are proud to stand alongside the governor as she does everything in her power to protect Michigan’s LGBT community from discrimination,” said Erin Knott, interim executive director for EQMI.
The organization is working to build bipartisan support around pro-LGBTQ legislation, and is working in coalition with business leaders across the state to expand ELCRA, which Knott said has been “languishing for years” because of a “logjam in Lansing” that needs to be broken.
“A supermajority of Americans, including people in Michigan, have affirmed the basic idea that employees should be judged on hard work and performance, not irrelevant personal characteristics,” said Knott. “The time has come to modernize Michigan’s policies to make it clear that discrimination against LGBT people will not be tolerated. We are calling on the legislature to take meaningful action.”
Reaction was also positive from Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan. He said, “Gov. Whitmer showed real leadership tonight by addressing some of the biggest problems facing our state. From fixing the damn roads and aiming to improve education for children and adults to fighting for freedom for the LGBTQ community and pushing the legislature to enact FOIA reform, we were pleased with what we heard tonight.
“We’ve had nearly a decade of total Republican control that bent to the whims of corporate interests, rather than the will of the people and tonight was the starting gun signaling that those days are over. We finally have an advocate for public education, Michigan’s diverse communities, and for transparency and ethics in state government in the governor’s office. We look forward to the days ahead and working to build a more progressive Michigan.”
Whitmer, the 49th governor in the state of Michigan, did not lay out an exact plan during her speech. Details are expected when Whitmer gives a budget address scheduled for March 5.
Watch the State of the State address here.

About the Author:

Kate Opalewski
Kate Opalewski is BTL's features editor and has been since 2015. She has covered a variety of topics ranging from art, politics and community outreach. Recently, she was honored by the Detroit Police Department LGBT Advisory Board for her work for the local LGBTQIA community.