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Legally discriminating against LGBT in Michigan: Employment (Part 2)

Rainbow flag, often associated with the LGBT movement
User Marlith
Flickr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM
LGBT rainbow flag flapping in the sun

Michigan’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act protects many people from discrimination.  You cannot be fired from your job because of your religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, family status, or marital status. But you can be fired for being gay. 

Advocates for LGBT people ask why should gay people be singled out for who they are?

But gay rights opponents say this is not about who they are; this is about their behavior.

Gary Glenn is with American Family Association – Michigan.

“We don’t believe that, for example, a Christian bookstore should be forced to hire some guy who claims to be a woman and wants to wear a dress to work and use the women’s restroom. We don’t believe that a Catholic school ought to be forced to hire an openly homosexual man as a football coach, for example.”

Glenn says it would be an infringement of employers’ rights if Michigan were to amend the state’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act to protect LGBT people.

Advocates for gay rights say this is similar to the same tired arguments heard in the past about people with disabilities, people of color, women and other victims of discrimination.

Jay Kaplan is with the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan. He says this not only hurts the LGBT community, but it’s bad policy that hurts the state’s economy.

“I would submit that the State of Michigan, our leaders, are doing such a disservice economically to our state by their continuing to have policies or to try to pass policies to say to certain groups of people, ‘You’re not on the same level as us; you’re not wanted; you’re not going to be treated fairly,’”

Kaplan argues the private sector is way ahead of the politicians on this issue. Many Fortune 500 companies, including the automakers of the state, decided long ago to implement policies against LGBT discrimination.

“They’ve realized not only is it the right thing to do, it’s good business practice. You want to recruit or retain the best and brightest employees in a competitive market, you have to recognize the diversity of your employment staff.”

Anti-gay rights advocates say, sure an employer can hire LGBT people if they want, but it shouldn’t be forced on them by the government.

Again… Gary Glenn with American Family Association – Michigan.

“There are obviously situations where whom somebody has sex with has nothing to do with their job, but we just don’t think people should be forced to hire individuals whose behavior is at odds with the sincerely held religious convictions or values of the employer.”

But, LGBT people ask shouldn’t they have the same rights other citizens have?

Greg Moore has spent his career in health care, helping people. He is gay. He was fired from a now-defunct home healthcare firm. He was outed at work and remembers what his supervisor told him when he was called into the office.

“ ‘Well, Greg, we have problems with your sexual preference, we have problems with that with you being in with male patients, taking care of them.’ I said, ‘I’ve been doing this for a lot of years and I never had any complaints and I just got employee of the month and now you’re firing me?’ I was devastated.”

Moore says driving home he cried so hard he ran off the road. It’s clear that that day years ago, getting fired solely because he was gay is still devastating to him. His voice cracking and tears brimming, he says he worries about others.

“If I can reach one person, one young person, who gets fired from their job for being gay or lesbian, do not commit suicide. You just fight it. Make others educated about the issue.”

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.
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