Michigan’s Department of Civil Rights celebrates 50 years

Sep 17, 2013

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights was created as part of the state constitution drafted in 1963. It’s charged with enforcing civil rights laws and preventing discrimination.

Leslee Fritz is the department’s interim director. She told a group in Grand Rapids Tuesday night the state has come a long way to ensure civil rights in the last five decades.

“The job we have is big and it would be great if here on our 50th anniversary we were on a farewell tour because the job was done. Maybe on our 100th we’ll be able to do that. But the reality is while we’ve come a long way there’s a lot left to do,” Fritz said.

Civil rights for lesbian, gay and transgender people came up at the event in Grand Rapids and another in Kalamazoo as one example. Some at the event wanted to see the commission do more to make sure women are paid the same as men for the same jobs. Others said immigration reform would provide more equality for undocumented, migrant workers.

Fritz said the MDCR completes about 2,000 investigations a year. They train more than 4,000 people each year in diversity education and civil rights laws, she said.

The department is in the middle of a 50-stop tour of Michigan to foster these discussions during its anniversary. There’s one in Saginaw later this month.