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Initiative would add LGBTQ protections to civil rights law

person signing a petition while another holds a clipboard
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A petition campaign will start gathering signatures to add protections for LGBTQ people to Michigan’s civil rights law. 

That would be on top of existing protections against discrimination based on factors such as race, religion, or family status.

The Michigan Constitution allows citizens to initiate bills and place them before the Legislature.

The Fair and Equal Michigan campaign has submitted language to a state board to add those protections to Michigan’s civil rights act. The campaign launched Tuesday.

Listen above to hear Stateside’s conversation with Selma Tucker and Joe Schwarz, who serve on the leadership committee for the Fair and Equal Michigan campaign. 

Trevor Thomas is with the Fair and Equal Michigan campaign. He says that if the elections board OKs the language, the campaign will start collecting petition signatures to initiate a law.

If the campaign gathers 340,047 names of registered voters, the proposal will be submitted to the Legislature. If the Legislature doesn’t adopt the initiative once the signatures are certified, the question would go on the November ballot.

“And voters, everyday people, will get to decide whether it is right or wrong to fire someone just because they are lesbian, gay, or transgender,” he says.

Thomas says the campaign has the support of many state and national civil rights, political, and business leaders. Selma Tucker is a member of the campaign’s leadership committee, and he says that securing protections for the LGBTQ community is a priority for many in Michigan’s corporate community.

“These are folks who are really concerned with making sure that we can attract top talent, and making sure that we can retain the talent that we have,” Tucker explains. “We are operating in a fairly tight job market, which makes these things really evident for employers and people who are seeking jobs.”

Tucker is also a vice president at Public Sector Consultants in Lansing. As a gay man, he says he’s seen firsthand how attitudes about LGBTQ protections are changing across the state.   

“If Lansing isn’t ready, I’m pretty sure the state of Michigan is,” he said.

Joe Schwarz agrees. He’s a former Republican congressman from Battle Creek, and also serves on the campaign's leadership committee. Schwarz says that he hopes that state legislators who have opposed adding LGBTQ protections in the past will reconsider this time around.

“The time has come to do the right thing, and LGBTQ people should be included in the Elliot Larsen Act. It’s as simple as that."

But if legislators don’t approve the measure, Schwarz says, he’s confident voters will.

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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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