For years, LGBTQ Michiganders have faced discrimination in public life due to the structure of the state’s civil rights law. The Elliott-Larsen Act of 1976 does not include protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity, meaning a person could be fired, denied housing or otherwise be legally discriminated against for being LGBTQ.
In June of last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a landmark case that the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 does indeed protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Now, lawmakers in Michigan are once again trying to codify those protections in state law.
Listen: The fight for LGBTQ protections in Michigan.
State Sen. Jeremy Moss is a Democrat from Southfield representing Michigan’s 11th Senate district. He is also the lead sponsor of legislation to expand the state’s civil rights law to include LGBTQ protections. He says last year’s Supreme Court ruling was a vital step, but more needs to be done to secure protections for LGBTQ individuals in Michigan. ” … the SCOTUS ruling was incredibly important … but there are gaps in the law … it only extends federal employment protections. In Michigan, we need state employment protections,” says Moss. He adds that official reports have validated that discrimination in the state is a real problem with real consequences. Attracting and retaining talent to the state could be in jeopardy, Moss says, if employment protections fail to get passed.
A public petition to revise the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ individuals has amassed roughly 500,000 signatures and has been submitted to state officials for review. Moss says this signals a gap between lawmakers and constituents. “The legislature has been so far behind where the public is on this issue … I think there will be plenty of opportunities for the public to weigh in on this,” says Moss.