FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 17, 2023
Gov. Whitmer Signs Bills to Expand Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, Establish Fred Korematsu Day in Michigan
LANSING, Mich.—Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation amending the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on an individual’s decision to have an abortion. Governor Whitmer also signed a bill to designate January 30 of each year as Fred Korematsu Day in Michigan.
“Today, I signed bills protecting and celebrating our fundamental freedoms as the foundation of our democracy,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “No one in Michigan should face discrimination because they exercised their constitutional rights, including their right to reproductive freedom by having an abortion. The state of Michigan also recognizes the historic contributions to civil liberties made by Fred Korematsu, a courageous activist and advocate who stood up against racism and oppression. These bills cement Michigan as a welcoming beacon of opportunity where everyone can envision a bright future for themselves.”
Governor Whitmer signed Senate Bills 18 and 147.
Senate Bill 18 designates January 30 of each year as “Fred Korematsu Day.” Fred Korematsu was born to Japanese immigrant parents in Oakland, California. On February 19, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order No. 9066, authorizing the Secretary of War and military commanders to require all Americans of Japanese ancestry to be placed in incarceration camps. Korematsu was arrested at age 23 for defying the government’s order and appealed his case all the way to the United States Supreme Court. In the landmark decision Korematsu v. United States, the court ruled against him. Fred Korematsu later moved to Detroit and remained an activist all his life. His conviction was vacated on November 10, 1983, but the Korematsu decision was not overturned until 2018. Fred Korematsu Day has also been recognized in the states of Hawaii, Utah, Georgia, Virginia, and California.
“Thank you to Governor Whitmer for signing our legislation to make January 30 Fred Korematsu Day for Civil Liberties and the Constitution every year in Michigan,” said state Senator Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit). “This is a terrific way to celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month —by formally recognizing how important it is that we learn about Japanese American incarceration camps and acknowledging the important contributions of Fred Korematsu to our history. Fred Korematsu was a civil liberties icon whose courage and conviction will serve as a model for generations to come. I’m grateful to have partnered with Rep. MacDonell, Sen. Singh, and former Rep. Kuppa on this legislation and excited that has now become law.”
Senate Bill 147 brings state law in line with the passage of Proposal 3 and the repeal of unenforceable abortion laws. It amends the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on an individual’s decision to end a pregnancy. Currently, the act specifically excludes “a nontherapeutic abortion not intended to save the life of the mother” from medical conditions protected from unequal treatment. Senate Bill 147 removes this exception and brings the act in line with the constitutional amendment passed in November protecting reproductive freedom.
“This bill is necessary to ensure the protection of civil rights for people who have abortions from employer discrimination or retaliation,” said state Senator Erika Geiss (D-Taylor). “Abortion is healthcare and nobody should be discriminated against because of their personal healthcare decisions. Abortion is a constitutional right in Michigan and the freedom to fully control our bodies, lives, and futures is vital to all of us. This legislation aligns with that right and ensures that employers cannot use their deeply held beliefs to discriminate against employees making personal healthcare decisions.”
Governor Whitmer’s Actions to Protect Reproductive Freedom
Governor Whitmer is committed to using every tool in her toolbox to protect access to safe, legal abortion and reproductive healthcare services in Michigan. She worked with the legislature to repeal Michigan’s extreme 1931 abortion ban, instructed state departments to increase protections for reproductive healthcare, signed an executive order refusing to extradite women or health care providers who seek reproductive freedom in Michigan, launched public awareness campaigns to educate Michiganders about the availability of no-cost contraception, and expanded access to birth control to more Michiganders.