LANSING, Mich. (March 8, 2021) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer joined Sen. Jeremy Moss (D–Southfield) and Reps. Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia) and Tim Sneller (D–Burton) today to renew the call to expand Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act by adding sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes — earning bipartisan support from co-sponsors in both legislative chambers for the first time.
The 45-year-old civil rights act offers protections to Michiganders if they face discrimination in employment, housing, or public accommodations based on their religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status. LGBTQ rights supporters have long advocated to include sexual orientation and gender identity among those existing protected classes.
“Passing this bill to amend the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act would bring Michigan in line with other states to become a model of equality nationwide,” said Governor Whitmer. “As a country, we have come a long way tackling discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and identity, but we must enshrine critical protections that a majority of Michiganders support in our state’s laws. This is not only the right thing to do, but it is also an effort supported by our state’s largest employers who want to expand protections to attract and retain employees. Together, we can build a stronger, more inclusive Michigan.”
Sen. Moss introduced Senate Bill 208 and Rep. Pohutsky sponsored House Bill 4297 to include LGBTQ protections in the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. Currently, 21 other states and the District of Columbia offer full protections from discrimination for LGBTQ individuals.
“As other states enshrine LGBTQ protections and our leaders in Congress work to include them in federal law, we in Michigan are still sitting on the sidelines and sending the wrong signal about our priorities and values to those looking to live or do business here,” Sen. Moss said. “We shouldn’t have to wait any longer. We must display that Michigan is a welcoming state for everyone to safely call home.”
Joining Senate and House Democrats as co-sponsors on the legislation are Sen. Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City) and Rep. Tommy Brann (R-Wyoming).
“For the first time, this package has bipartisan support in both chambers of the legislature,” Rep. Pohutsky said. “Ensuring that each and every Michigan resident has equal protection under the law is not a partisan issue — it is a reflection of our values. An overwhelming majority is calling for this change, and it is time that our laws reflect the will of the people.”
A study from The Williams Institute, a UCLA Law School think tank found that LGBTQ-inclusive, nondiscrimination policies and workplace atmospheres lead to job commitments, better workplace relationships, better health outcomes, and increased job satisfaction. Michigan’s own Civil Rights Department issued a report that LGBTQ discrimination has a direct negative economic impact in our state.
“Michiganders have stood up time and time again against discrimination, and I am proud to stand with them once more,” Rep. Sneller, a co-sponsor of the House legislation, said. “Updating the ELCRA is not only important to extend the full benefit of these protections to the LGBTQ community but also to enshrine our commitment to fight discrimination of any kind. Being a part of this march towards progress and equality will always be one of my proudest moments as a legislator and a citizen.”
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