LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other Michigan lawmakers say the time is now to expand the state law that protects against housing and workplace discrimination to include the LGBTQ+ community.
A group of Michigan lawmakers say they think they have enough support pass a bill aimed at expanding the protections of the Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act. State Sen. Jeremy Moss is leading the effort and says momentum is building.
"We have legislation that is supported by Democrats, regional leaders, labor and the business community and for the first time, Republicans in the House and Senate," Moss said.
The bill has the support of 16 senate Democrats so far but Moss says the number is expected to climb.
Lawmakers and community stakeholders want to get sexual orientation and gender identity added to the act and are prepared to meet their goal either by getting it passed by the legislature or by getting the public to approve it through a ballot measure.
”We will push for a committee hearing. We will push for a vote. So these bills have been introduced. The work on this hopefully is imminent. But once those ballot petitions there’s a window where we have to act on it or it goes to the ballot," Moss said during a Zoom press conference on Monday.
More than 370,000 people in the state identify as part of the LGBTQ community, according to stats from LGBTmap.org.
Of that number about 230,000 are employed. Under current Michigan law, people can be fired from a job or denied housing because they're gay.
"Being a trans-woman of color, a proud black trans-woman. We’re at the totem pole. The end of the totem pole when it comes to respect and inclusion and real equitable interests. So all of these ideas have come together and these leaders have come together to say, 'No more,'" said Ja'Nyce Poindexter of the Ruth Ellis Center.
Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope has been advocating for this kind of change since the 1980s and says the proposed changes are past due.
”It's my understanding that, when the Elliot Larsen Act was originally introduced, it contained protections for gay and lesbian people but in the compromise to get it adopted that was removed," Swope said.
Senate Bill 208 heads to the Senate floor on Tuesday, then will be referred to a committee.
If it isn’t passed, the issue could show up on ballots in 2022.