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LGBT Groups Celebrate as Governor Signs Non-Discrimination Directive

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer displays the LGBTQ anti-discrimination executive directive after a signing ceremony on Monday. (Jim Murray/Equality MI)
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer displays the LGBTQ anti-discrimination executive directive after a signing ceremony on Monday. (Jim Murray/Equality MI)
January 8, 2019

LANSING, Mich. — Civil-rights groups are celebrating a new directive from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer that bans discrimination against LGBTQ people who work for the state or its contractors, or who service state properties.

The directive specifically forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Erin Knott, interim executive director with the group Equality Michigan, said the move will affect thousands of people.

"Executive branch employees aren't going to have to worry about discrimination hurting their ability to support themselves. Conservation officers can't harass same-sex partners if they are camping in our state parks later this summer,” Knott said. “Or MDOT-contracted construction companies, for example, won't be allowed to discriminate in the hiring of LGBT workers."

Whitmer's move is consistent with the position taken last May by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, which interpreted the state's existing prohibition on sex discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity. However, current state law - specifically the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, which originally passed in 1976 - does not include LGBTQ protections in its ban on discrimination in employment, housing, education and in public accommodations and services.

Knott said the Legislature has been dragging its feet on adding LGBTQ protections for decades, and she thinks now is the time to act.

"First, they should adopt rules in the House and the Senate to protect their own employees from anti-LGBT discrimination,” she said. “And they should, at long last, expand the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to make it fully inclusive for all Michiganders, including those of the LGBT community."

In December, a coalition of civil rights and health groups sent a letter asking Whitmer to support a number of policy changes. Those included budgeting more money for family planning, and supporting a legal challenge to a 2015 state law that allowed foster care and adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ people on the basis of religious liberty.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - MI