LGBT

LGBT flag.
Guillaume Paumier / Flickr

In Michigan, you can be fired or denied housing for being gay. That's because there are no LGBT protections in the state's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

The story of  teacher Gerry Crane illustrates that. Crane, a gay high school music teacher, was outed by his students, forced to resign, and several months later died of a stress-related heart attack. 

Christine Yared, an attorney from Grand Rapids, is writing a book about Crane's life. The book will be called "Gay Teacher: A Story About Love, Hate, and Lessons Yet To Be Learned."

Today on Stateside:

  • Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act enters its second year. Marianne Udow-Phillips, director of the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation at the University of Michigan, was on the show to discuss it.
  • Federal law guarantees that children with disabilities have equal access to education, but is that really the case in practice? Sarah Alvarez with State of Opportunity and Bridge Magazine writer Ron French discuss what's actually the case for Michigan kids.

State Capitol
user aunt owwee / Flickr

A couple hundred people showed up outside the state Capitol to protest House Bill 5958, which would create a Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“Five-nine-five-eight is a license to discriminate!” the group chanted on a march around the Capitol and through downtown Lansing.

Bob Pratt of East Lansing was one of the protesters. He says it’s aimed at enabling discrimination against LGBT people.

“There’s no reason for a bill like this. And to then call it the religious freedom bill when it really is a license to discriminate,” he said. “It’s the freedom to discriminate against people that you don’t like and then hide behind religion for it.”

Courtesy photo / Holland BPW

This week, Jack Lessenberry and Emily Fox discuss Detroit’s pending bankruptcy exit, confusion over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and a Senate bill that would count the burning of tires, used oil and other waste products as renewable energy.


The state House passed the Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) yesterday and it’s fair to say it was a little dose of Republican Speaker Jase Bolger’s “here’s-how-bad-it-can-get-if-you-don’t-play-along.”

The RFRA was supposed to move in tandem with a measure that would add protections based on sexual orientation to the state’s civil rights law. That was a version that Bolger said he would accept, as long as there was a separate bill that would provide some cover for people who have religious objections to gay rights.

But LGBT advocates said there also should be explicit protections for transgender people. Bolger said he wouldn’t support that.

So, Bolger got the RFRA passed last night, without moving on the LGBT protections, showing the LGBT community just what can happen when you cross him.

Wikimedia Commons

It would be foolish to do, but Michigan business owners could put up a “Straights Only” sign in the window. It would be legal. In fact, it’s legal for just about any business to turn away  gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender citizens.

Under the leadership of Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger and Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, the Legislature has rejected the advice of business leaders and others who think LGBT people ought to be treated like every other citizen.

The Michigan House of Representatives.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Yesterday the choice of whether to add LGBT rights to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act was stalled in the House Commerce Committee, and it looks like it will likely stay there.

State Capitol
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Each Thursday we talk Michigan politics with Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants. 

There’s a time-honored political technique you might call the “big lie” theory. Basically, it works this way: If you tell the same outrageous lie over and over, no matter how big it is, eventually people will believe that at least some part of it is true.

Retired Ford executive and former Wayne State University President Allan Gilmour says adopting LGBT protections in law will help the state attract and retain talent.
Rick Pluta / MPRN

A state House committee adjourned today without voting on legislation that would add LGBT protections to Michigan’s civil rights law, and it appears the effort has stalled as the Legislature grows close to wrapping up for the year.

Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

Right now in Michigan, you can be fired from a job or be denied housing if you're gay. A group of LGBT rights advocates wants that changed. 

user Marlith / Flickr

Supporters of adding LGBT protections to Michigan’s civil rights law say they have enough votes in the Legislature to pass a bill before the end of the year. But they say that’s only if Republican leaders take up a version of the bill that includes protections for gender identity.

Activists say a bill that leaves out protections for transgender people would cause more harm than good.

user Marlith / Flickr

Nine major businesses based in Michigan got top scores for workplace equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual  and transgender workers.  That's according to the 2015 Corporate Equality Index released today by the Human Rights Campaign Fund, a leading national LGBT civil rights organization.

The Detroit 3 automakers were among those ranked highest - along with Kellogg, Steelcase, Whirlpool and Dow Chemical.

Paige Pfleger / Michigan Radio

The Human Rights Campaign has issued this year's Municipal Equality Index, which measures how LGBT-friendly cities are.

Michigan's results are rather divided. East Lansing received a perfect score, making them one of only 15 cities in the country to get 100. Warren, on the other hand, received only a 10.

“We need to not have gaps in the state,” Sommer Foster of Equality Michigan said. “I think we can't have one place where they have a 100% score and another place where they have a 10% score.” 

Freedom Michigan campaign aims to update the Elliot-Larsen civil rights act to include the LGBT community.
user Marlith / flickr.com

Yesterday, a federal judge ruled that Michigan’s law preventing public schools and municipalities from providing benefits to unmarried partners of employees was unconstitutional.

Critics of the law said it impacted same-sex couples almost exclusively.

The same day we also saw a bill introduced in the state House that would add protections for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals to Michigan’s civil rights law.

Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate majority leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants, joined me to talk about what it could mean for the Legislature and the state.

Here's our conversation:


Wikimedia Commons

A federal judge has struck down a Michigan law that denies employer-sponsored benefits to many public employees in same-sex relationships.

The case was filed by five same-sex couples where one of the partners is employed by a local government or school district in Michigan. They challenged the law, which was adopted in 2011 by the Legislature and signed by Governor Rick Snyder.

US District Court Judge David Lawson issued a preliminary injunction against the law, and, now, has issued an order siding with the five couples. He says the case is not about same-sex marriage, which Michigan voters banned 10 years ago. He says the state adopted an unconstitutionally narrow definition of what makes up a family. And he says the law is rooted in official government hostility against people in same-sex relationships.

user Marlith / Flickr

A debate is shaping up in the Michigan House on whether Michigan’s civil rights law should be expanded to protect gays, lesbians, and bisexuals from discrimination. There’s also a fight brewing on whether those protections should extent to transgender people.

And House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) said he would only support adding “sexual orientation” (but not “gender identity”) to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act if the Legislature adopts a law to grant exceptions for many people with religious objections.

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

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.

Democrats in Lansing are not waiting any longer to push civil rights protections for gays, lesbians, and transgender people.

And the fact that Democrats are now out in front, signals this is no longer about adopting a policy, this is now political.

For several sessions, Democrats have introduced legislation to add LGBT protections to Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. But last year they were persuaded to wait by civil rights groups who at long last saw a policy success in their grasp. That’s if they could get a Republican to take the lead (because, of course, the GOP runs the show in Lansing).

This week, however, those hopes essentially fell apart as prospective Republican co-sponsors bailed, and GOP leaders put unacceptable conditions on taking up the bill.

Now, the sole, lonely Republican publicly backing LGBT rights in the civil rights law, says he has not given up. “We’re still working and talking with colleagues and educating,” said Republican state Representative Frank Foster. Interestingly enough, as we talked about last month on It's Just Politics, Foster lost his primary in August to a more socially conservative Republican. There's continued debate over whether or not  his loss was do in part because of his support for adding LGBT rights to Elliott-Larsen.

State Senator Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, looks absolutely nothing like Harry Truman, the 33rd President of the United States. Yet yesterday, when Warren introduced legislation to amend Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, he instantly came to mind.

And here’s why: Many people, especially the LGBT community and their allies, were excited when, with considerable fanfare, Warren introduced her bill. SB 1053 would make it illegal for anyone hiring employees or providing housing to discriminate against anyone based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Identity, or expression. Her bill, as I understand it, would also make it illegal to refuse to hire or sell or serve or rent to anyone because you don’t like the way they dress or define themselves.

State capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Legislature is back in session. Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says in the 20 session days left between now and the end of the year he wants to find a plan to fix Michigan’s crumbling roads and a way to ease term limits on Michigan lawmakers.

However, adding LGBT protections to Michigan's civil rights law is proving to be an ongoing battle in the Legislature.

I spoke with Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics.

Here's our conversation.

LGBT flag.
Guillaume Paumier / Flickr

You can be fired, denied a job or housing in Michigan if you are gay. Michigan's civil rights law, the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, does not include LGBT protections, the same way it does for race, ethnicity, and gender. 

But yesterday, Democrats at the state capitol proposed legislation to add sexual orientation and gender identity to Elliott-Larsen. 

Jonathan Oosting of MLive says whether or not that public debate leads to action remains to be seen.

"There's certainly some belief that it's time to have this debate, although the way things went down this week has sort of raised some questions about how feasible it's going to be to get this through the Legislature," says Oosting.

* Listen to the interview with Jonathan Oosting above.

user Tyrone Warner / Flickr

Legislation that would add LGBT protections to Michigan’s anti-discrimination law will probably have to wait until after the November election.

Some supporters of the measure hoped lawmakers would take it up before voters go to the polls in November. But the bill has not even been introduced yet.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, says he wants to take up the issue. Be he does not expect to hold a vote until the Legislature’s “lame duck” session.

Barbara Webb (left) sitting with wife Kristen Lasecki
User: I Stand With Barb Webb / facebook

The firing of a pregnant teacher at Marian High School in Bloomfield Hills is making headlines.

For nine years, Barb Webb taught chemistry and coached various teams at the all-girls Catholic school.

Webb is a lesbian. She married her wife, Kristen, two years ago. Earlier this year, they found out they were expecting a baby.

Barb Webb's firing has ignited an emotional response on social media.

Many Marian alumnae, parents and supporters spoke out in support of Webb on a Facebook page that has more than 4,000 members.

On other sites, however, there are those who believe Webb violated the teachings of the Catholic Church, and, as such, the Catholic private school was well within its rights to fire her.

user Marlith / Flickr

The list of groups calling on state lawmakers to pass protections for LGBT people is growing. Organizations representing Michigan college, university, and school officials now say they support the measure.

They join more than 50 business and non-profit groups urging lawmakers to pass the legislation, which the coalition expects to be introduced next month.

user Tyrone Warner / Flickr

Thursday is the day we talk Michigan politics with Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics.

Today we talk about the challenges facing Republicans in the Legislature as they figure out how to address lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights in the state.

Here’s our conversation:


 Here we are, trying to shake some more truth out of Tuesday’s primary results. And there is still at least one lingering result that has people continuing to wonder what exactly happened and why. And that would be Republican Representative Frank Foster’s primary loss to Tea Party challenger Lee Chatfield.

It’s not that people didn’t think a Tea Party win was possible. In fact, the Tea Party took aim at quite a few GOP incumbents over their votes for the Medicaid expansion and the Common Core education standards.

But every single other incumbent state lawmaker survived.

In Foster’s case, though, there were a couple of distinctions. Foster was identified by a political newsletter as one of Lansing’s most lobbyist-wined and dined. It’s never good when an incumbent is targeted as having “gone native” in Lansing or D.C.

This week at the annual Detroit Regional Chamber’s policy conference on Mackinac Island, Governor Snyder joined the chorus of people calling for an update to Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights act to include protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people… sort of.

There is a lot of spoon-feeding to the press here on the Island – a litany of press conferences and media scrums. And, yesterday, one of those press conferences was held by a group of business leaders who want LGBT protections rolled into the civil rights law.

Meanwhile, at almost the exact same time as these business leaders were making their announcement, the Governor was talking to us, telling us he thought the legislature ought to take the issue up.

But, did he actually endorse it? “I’m encouraging them to say there’s been a lot of dialog and discussion on this. It’s been healthy in the public and I think it could be an appropriate topic for the legislators to take up. I would appreciate that,” the Governor said. And, that statement is fairly typical of the multiple exchanges we had with the governor on this topic.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A group of Metro Detroit clergy leaders stood together Thursday to send a clear message: They support same-sex marriage and equal rights for LGBT people.

They also strongly condemned some of their fellow Michigan Christian leaders who are fighting to uphold the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Last week, a group of about 200, mostly Michigan-based black pastors declared that “the fight is on” to protect “traditional” marriage.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A coalition of about 200 mostly Michigan-based black pastors says “the fight is on” when it comes to same-sex marriage.

A federal judge overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage earlier this year. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has appealed that ruling, and it’s now headed to the US 6th Circuit court of appeals.

The pastors condemned the ruling in an event at First Baptist International World Changers church in Detroit Wednesday.

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