Citizen initiative would prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people

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Supporters of LGBTQ rights hold placards in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019, in Washington. The Supreme Court heard arguments in its first cases on LGBT rights since the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

LANSING — A growing committee of Michigan citizens submitted petition language today to the Board of State Canvassers seeking to spark legislation that would amend the state’s current civil rights law — the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act.

The Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act was passed in 1976 to prohibit discriminatory practices, policies, and customs in the exercise of those rights based upon religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status.

The proposed initiative would change the law to also prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

The petition submitted today by Fair and Equal Michigan, a Michigan ballot question committee, starts the process to amend the Act. 

Non-partisan Michigan pollster Richard Czuba conducted a statewide survey of 600 registered voters that shows 77.5 percent of likely 2020 Michigan General Election voters support legislation to amend the state’s civil rights law to protect LGBTQ people (66 percent strongly support), while 16.5 percent do not support.

In 1972 East Lansing was the first city in the United States to ban discrimination in hiring on account of homosexuality.

The Fair and Equal Michigan campaign is the next evolution of Michigan’s support for the LGBTQ community.

Until 2018, Michigan had barred the Michigan Civil Rights Commission from taking calls reporting discrimination to their hotline. The Commission now is reviewing cases of reported discrimination. Meanwhile, Equality Michigan’s hotline reported 1,000+ calls for help in the past four years. 

Once the petition is approved by the Board of State Canvassers, Fair and Equal Michigan has until May 27, 2020, to submit petitions including the signatures of at least 340,047 Michigan voters.

Once enough valid signatures are submitted, the Michigan Legislature will have 40 days to adopt the proposed amendments to the Act without change.

If the Legislature does not Act or rejects the proposal, it will be added to the ballot of the November 3, 2020, General Election.

According to research by the non-partisan Glengariff Group, 77 percent of voters support the measure.

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