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Another Michigan community adds LGBT protections to its books, but does it help?

Sep 19, 2014

As our investigative reporter Lester Graham has reported, it is perfectly legal to discriminate against gay and transgender people in Michigan. There's no federal law against it, and there's no state law preventing it.

Some communities do try to prevent LGBT discrimination at the local level.  Equality Michigan lists 36 communities in Michigan with such laws - and now, Macomb County has just been added to the list.

More from the Associated Press:

Macomb County authorities have passed a policy protecting county employees from discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

The county Board of Commissioners voted 8-5 for the change on Thursday. Commissioner Fred Miller spearheaded the policy initiative and says it will ensure county employees are treated based on "their merits," not on "who they love."

... Macomb County officials say the new policy won't provide preferential treatment to one group over another. It employs about 2,600 people.

The county recently changed its human resources handbook to include language about sexual orientation.

But even though there is a local law, it doesn't always prevent discrimination in that community.

Michigan Radio's Graham pointed out that these local laws fuel a misperception that the LGBT community is protected from discrimination:

Part of the misperception about whether gay people are protected is the ongoing efforts at the local level. Twenty-two municipalities have approved protections for LGBT people through local ordinances. [There are more than 22 today.] But, those local laws vary widely in the protections offered. And even the strongest ordinances have problems.

The problems are mainly around enforcement issues. The ordinances, critics say, can become a "paper tiger": the law is on the books, but no one is really watching.

That's why some LGBT rights advocates are hoping that lawmakers change Michigan's main anti-discrimination law - the Elliot Larsen Act.

Here are the states that have anti-discrimination laws that cover gay and transgender people (a few states exclude transgender protections):

States that have some form of LGBT anti-discrimination laws on the books.
Credit ACLU

Legislation has been introduced in in the Michigan Legislature to add LGBT protections, but it's not likely to be taken up this year.