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Group of faith leaders in Michigan calls for more legal protections for LGBTQ community

group of faith leaders standing in a church
Bryce Huffman
Michigan Radio
A group of faith leaders gathered to talk about adding legal protections for LGBTQ people to state law.

A group of faith leaders gathered in Grand Rapids on Tuesday to address the lack of legal protections for LGBTQ people in Michigan.

There is nothing currently in Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act explicitly banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Reverend Roland Stringfellow, a pastor from Detroit, says it’s time for a change.  

“Someone can literally be fired from their job simply by their identity, and we feel like that is archaic and that really needs to change,” Stringfellow says.

Stringfellow says he's aware that not every faith leader in the state has favorable views of the LGBTQ community.

“This is not about starting a Bible battle with the religious right or people who don’t agree with us, it’s about respecting the common humanity of people in our communities,” Stringfellow says.

Stringfellow is a member of the nonprofit group Inclusive Justice, which wrote a letter urging elected officials to add protections for LGBTQ people to non-discrimination laws. More than 50 religious leaders from across the state have signed the letter so far. 

One such faith leader is Reverend Rachel Bahr. She's the Pastor of Plymouth United Church of Christ in Grand Rapids. She says she, her wife and many members of her church are in the LGBTQ community.

“We really need to stand by and provide equal protections under the law for all people,” Bahr says.

The interfaith community wants comprehensive updates to the state’s civil rights act, which would prevent individuals from claiming religious freedom when denying services and goods to LGBTQ people.

Earlier this year, the Fair and Equal Michigan campaign submitted language to a state board to try to add those protections to Michigan’s civil rights act. 

Reverend Fred Wooden, Senior Minister of Fountain Street Church in downtown Grand Rapids and former state Congressional candidate, says he knows a lot of people in the faith community are hesitant to talk openly about the LGBTQ community.

“My spiritual health has been made better by having these people in my life, which means my moral health requires that I do everything to make sure they are protected,” Wooden says.

This post has been updated to reflect Rev. Fred Wooden's correct title at Fountain Street Church.

Bryce Huffman was Michigan Radio’s West Michigan Reporter and host of Same Same Different. He is currently a reporter for Bridge Detroit.
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