Skubick: LGBTQ civil rights petition receives last-minute save from state board of canvassers

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FILE – In this Oct. 8, 2019 file photo, supporters of LGBTQ rights stage a protest on the street in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington. The Michigan elections bureau has determined that a ballot drive to prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people failed to collect enough valid voter signatures. A report says that Fair and Equal Michigan gathered nearly 299,000 signatures, short of the roughly 340,000 needed. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta,File)

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Backers of a plan to expand the state’s civil rights act to include the LGBTQ community got a reprieve today as the state election board granted more time to decide if enough petition signatures were filed to put this issue before the legislature.

It was like it was the bottom of the 9th inning, and the home team was behind with two outs and the batter was facing a 3-2 count when suddenly… the umpire called a time out.

That’s precisely what the state board of canvassers did today just when everyone thought the four-member board would vote to kill the gay rights petition drive for lack of enough valid petition signatures to expand the state civil rights act.

Last week, the staff from the election board declared that Fair and Equal Michigan did not submit enough names.

But hours before the board meeting, the proponents of the petition drive argued the state board never considered some petition names that should have been counted.

Over 400,000 petition signatures were submitted to the state, with 314,000 valid names required to make it illegal for LGBTQ+ people to be fired or lose their housing because of their sexual preference.

The Board decided there were enough unanswered questions that it delayed a final decision.

The attorney for the group opposing this proposal asked for permission to submit what she hopes will be additional proof that many of the signatures were citizens who signed two petitions, which is illegal.

“If we are going to extend this, which I don’t think is going to change the result at all,” said Andrea Hanson, a lawyer for Citizens for Equality, Fairness and Justice

“If within that time frame i’s like the ability to submit more duplicates if there are more.”

The Fair and Equal attorney, having just dodged the bullet, was relieved to have more time.

“I think that proving us an opportunity, for the staff and board, that there are a number of valid signatures that should be counted,” said Fair and Equal Michigan lawyer Steve Leidel.

“I’m confident that enough valid signatures were filed.”

Meanwhile, the umpire’s time out will last until July 26, the day when the board meets again to decide this question.

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