Michigan state Senate passes bill to protect LGBTQ rights

Three Republicans joined every Democrat to approve the legislation

Mar 2, 2023 at 11:08 am
click to enlarge LGBTQ flag. - Shutterstock.com
LGBTQ flag.

For decades, Democrats have introduced legislation to provide protections for LGBTQ residents in Michigan, but each time, Republicans prevented the bills from advancing to a vote.

Now Democrats have control of the state Legislature for the first time in nearly 40 years, and they are determined to establish rights for residents based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

On Wednesday, the state Senate approved a bill that would expand the Michigan Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include protections for LGBTQ residents.

The bill passed by a 23-15 vote, with three Republicans and every Democrat voting in favor.

The law prohibits discrimination in housing and hiring based on religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, and marital status. But it does not protect residents based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“For far too long, LGBTQ+ Michiganders could not seek justice after enduring discrimination because we were excluded from our state’s Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act. In a historic vote today, the Michigan Senate passed my bill to expand the act and liberate our community,” said Sen. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, the bill’s sponsor and the state’s only openly gay state senator. “I’m running through the tape, but this baton has been passed from generation to generation of LGBTQ+ activists in Michigan – icons in our community like Jeff Montgomery, Ruth Ellis, Jim Toy, Henry Messer and many others. And now we are telling generations yet to come that they have a future.”

The bill will advance to the state House, where it’s expected to be approved. Gov Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, has repeatedly said she would sign the bill into law.

If enacted, Michigan would become the 23rd state to provide full protections from discrimination for LGBTQ people.

“In these last decades, real Michiganders suffered from real acts of discrimination: denied housing and evicted, denied jobs and fired, denied services and put out of places for no other reason than their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Moss said. “They were kicked out of Michigan’s economy both as workers and consumers. This left them figuratively and sometimes literally beaten, battered, and bruised for having the audacity to live their lives as they were. Had it not been for their courage to come forward to bring much-needed attention to these wrongs we could not have progressed to this moment. This bill is dedicated to them.”

The bill has widespread support from numerous organizations and individuals, including the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan, Corktown Health, the Detroit Police Department, medical professionals, faith leaders, the Michigan Realtors Association, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the Detroit Regional Chamber, the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, and Business Leaders for Michigan.

“Michigan’s laws should be as welcoming as our state feels,” Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, said. “When policies allow for discrimination against a wide segment of our population solely based on who they love or their gender identity, we aren’t accomplishing that goal. But today, under the leadership of Senator Jeremy Moss who has been a leading voice for LGBTQ+ Michiganders, we’re taking action to protect people living their authentic lives. It’s good for the safety and security of Michigan residents, it’s good for the economy, and it’s simply the right thing to do.”

More than 373,000 Michigan residents identify as LGBTQ.

State Attorney General Dana Nessel said the legislation is important because of the rightward lurch of the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Given the current state of our country’s judiciary, where high courts have succumbed to political pressure and overturned long-standing and even court-tested decisions like Roe v. Wade, it is imperative that these rights are enshrined in Michigan law to help them withstand future legal attacks,” Nessel said.

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