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Citizen Effort Launches to Improve LGBTQ Protections in MI

A new coalition is launching a ballot initiative to help ensure that LGBTQ Michiganders are guaranteed safeguards in housing, public accommodations and employment. (Adobe Stock)
A new coalition is launching a ballot initiative to help ensure that LGBTQ Michiganders are guaranteed safeguards in housing, public accommodations and employment. (Adobe Stock)
January 8, 2020

LANSING, Mich. -- After years of inaction at the Statehouse, some Michiganders are taking bold action to expand the state's civil-rights law to prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.

A newly formed Fair and Equal Michigan ballot committee filed petition language with the Secretary of State's office on Tuesday to amend the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

Erin Knott, executive director of Equality Michigan, said advocates have worked side-by-side with pro-equality lawmakers on these issues for nearly three decades -- and now, citizens are taking matters into their own hands.

"It's the right thing to do," she said, "to make a statement that says, 'All Michiganders, including members of the LGBTQ community, are welcome and will be treated fairly and justly.' "

The coalition needs to collect more than 340,000 valid voter signatures by May 27 to get the measure onto the November ballot. However, organizers are hopeful their efforts will spur state lawmakers to take legislative action. Past attempts to amend Elliott-Larsen have floundered in the Republican-controlled Legislature, with some lawmakers wanting the changes to be linked to a religious exemption law and others questioning the need for specific LGBT discrimination protections.

Knott argued that it's what voters want.

"Seventy-seven percent of Michiganders support amending Elliot-Larsen to include sexual orientation, gender identity and expression," she said. "Furthermore, this is good for making Michigan more competitive, in terms of retaining and attracting talent for employment, tourism and other economic sectors."

Laws are on the books in 21 other states that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI