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LGBT civil rights bill appears to have stalled; vote unlikely before year's end

Retired Ford executive and former Wayne State University President Allan Gilmour says adopting LGBT protections in law will help the state attract and retain talent.
Rick Pluta

A state House committee adjourned today without voting on legislation that would add LGBT protections to Michigan’s civil rights law, and it appears the effort has stalled as the Legislature grows close to wrapping up for the year.State Rep. Frank Foster, R-Petoskey, both testified and presided over the hour-long hearing that allowed supporters and opponents to voice their opinions. He said it’s time for Michigan to update its civil rights law.

“Check your politics at the door on this one, and do what is right for the state,” he said, noting that his stand on the issue very likely cost him reelection. He was the only incumbent to lose his Republican primary last August.

Retired Ford Motor Company executive and former Wayne State University President Allan Gilmour was one of those who showed up to support updating the law.

“If Michigan is to attract and retain talent, and succeed in the competitive race among states, on an individual basis, no one should live in fear that they will lose their jobs should they live openly,” said Gilmour, who is gay.

He says more and more businesses are ensuring their LGBT employees don’t face on-the-job discrimination.

“The climate in this state has not kept up. It is necessary for our elected officials to exercise leadership and transmit the message that discrimination will not be tolerated.”

Gilmour says the law should be as expansive as possible to protect gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people. One version would protect transgender people as well as people who might simply be
perceived as gay with the phrase “gender identity.” Another version leaves it out.

Minister Stacy Swimp says adding LGBT protections to the civil rights law would be a license to discriminate against business owners who oppose gay rights.

Credit Rick Pluta / MPRN
Minister Stacy Swimp says adding LGBT protections to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act would open the door to discrimination against business owners with religious objections to gay rights.

“The Michigan Legislature has a sworn duty to uphold the constitutionally protected freedoms of every citizen of this state, including Christian business owners,” said Swimp, who also said comparing the LGBT equality movement to the civil rights movement is an “insult” to African Americans.

A bill up for a hearing tomorrow would carve out exceptions for people based on their religious faith.

A spokesman for House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, said it’s highly unlikely the LGBT expansion will be voted on before the Legislature adjourns for the year.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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