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Petition drive to prohibit LGBTQ discrimination moves forward another step

flickr user Charlie Nguyen

The Fair and Equal Michigan campaign that seeks to amend Michigan's civil rights law to add anti-discrimination protection for LGBTQ people has submitted more than 483,000 petition signatures to state election officials, according to an announcement by the group on Tuesday.

Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Act already prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, education, and public accomodations on the basis of a long list of characteristics that include race, sex, religion, age, national origin, family status, and weight.

If election officials certify that about 340,000 of the submitted signatures are valid, the state Legislature has 40 days to decide whether to pass the citizen's bill.

If the Legislature does not adopt the measure, it will be on the November 2022 ballot for the voters to decide.

According to a survey of 600 registered voters conducted in June 2019 by the non-partisan Glengariff Group, roughly 77% said they would support a ballot proposal that would bypass the Legislature if it chose not to bar discrimination against LGBTQ people.

Fair and Equal Michigan co-chair Trevor Thomas says the state Legislature has resisted enacting LGBTQ civil rights protections for decades.

"The LBGTQ community has been patient. We've done the hard work of changing hearts and minds," says Thomas. "And it is time for the Legislature to catch up."

Thomas says discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is a harsh fact of life in Michigan and it needs to stop.

"We are asking to be treated like everybody else," Thomas says.

"A number of businesses, unions, the philanthropy community, non-profits support Fair and Equal Michigan in our effort to pass this legislation," says Thomas. "Because it speaks to Michigan being a welcoming state, attracting the top talent.  It's good for our economy. It's good for business. It's good for our communities, and it's also the right thing to do."

According to an April 2020 report by the Williams Institute of UCLA Law School, 23 states and Washington, D.C. provide non-discrimination protection on the basis of either or both sexual orientation and gender identity, although laws vary over what settings the protections apply to.

Virginia Gordan has been a part-time reporter at Michigan Radio since fall 2013. She has a general beat covering news topics from across the state.
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