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Senate committee holds first hearing on LGBTQ-rights bill

LGBT flag.
Guillaume Paumier

A first hearing on an LGBTQ-rights bill was held Thursday before a state Senate committee in anticipation of expanding Michigan’s civil rights law for the first time in decades.

Efforts over the years to expand the 1977 law have failed. In the meantime, many local governments have adopted a patchwork of LGBTQ rights protections.

The new bill would expand Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. The law is already expansive, protecting against discrimination based on "religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status" in employment, housing, education, and access to public accommodations. Court decisions and the Michigan Civil Rights Commission have said those protections also extend to gender identity and sexual orientation, but Senator Jeremy Moss, the bill's sponsor, said it's time now to enshrine them in state law.

“This has been a long journey from being unpopular and to relegating our community to be alone in these deliberations to gaining support,” he said.

Expanding the civil rights law has bipartisan support. Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Legislature's Democratic leaders say they would like to get this done this year.

Another hearing before the Senate Civil Rights, Public Safety, and Judiciary Committee is planned for next week, when the bill could be voted to the Senate floor. A matching bill has also been introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives.

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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