There’s a split in Lansing about how far and how aggressively to push for gay rights in Michigan -- specifically to update the state’s civil rights law.
Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act
This is as much a cultural split between Lansing lobbyists and the LGBT community and how they view their mission as it is a difference of opinion about tactics and priorities. However, it has now jeopardized, if not already doomed, the effort to update Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA).
The ELCRA already has protections against housing and employment discrimination based on race, ethnicity, and weight, among other things. It’s long been a goal of Michigan’s LGBT advocates to add LGBT protections to the law.
History repeating itself
Thirty years ago, that effort cost state Representative Jim Dressel (R-Holland) his job. He lost his Republican primary in 1984 after he introduced a bill to add the phrase “sexual orientation” to the law.
This past summer, state Representative Frank Foster (R-Petoskey) suffered a similar fate for being the millennial Republican leading the effort on the GOP side of the aisle. His hope was to leave the introduction of the law a part of his political legacy.
But, efforts to accomplish that goal in this year’s “lame duck” session are now hung up on the words “gender identity.” That phrase would ensure that transgender people are also covered under the law.
A business coalition, put together and led by AT&T of Michigan President Jim Murray, was pushing the issue saying it’s not just a question of fairness, but talent - convincing people that Michigan is open, inclusive, and a good place to look for a job. Not only was it a persuasive group on its own but pretty much every multi-client lobbying firm in Lansing was also engaged in the effort.