Michigan Watch

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Three townships in the Lansing region will be considering proposals to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender expression.

In a coordinated effort, Delhi, Meridian, and Delta township officials could vote on protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from employment, housing, and public accommodation discrimination with the next several weeks.

Photo from the 2011 Capital Pride Parade in Washington, D.C.
user ep_jhu / Flickr

Public polling and recent court cases have prompted greater discussion about adding protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in Michigan’s civil rights law. Advocates for the change say it’s time to stop legally discriminating against LGBT people. Others say changing the law say it would mean people opposed to homosexual behavior would be discriminated against. The issue is beginning to play out in the Michigan legislature.

Michigan’s civil rights law is known as the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act. It prohibits discrimination based on religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, family status, and marital status.

Advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and opponents of gay rights have one thing in common: both sides say discrimination should not be allowed. Where they go from there is very different.

LGBT advocates say sexual orientation and gender expression should be included in the Elliot-Larsen protections.

Anti-gay rights advocates say there’s no need for creating special classes of people to be protected.

courtesy U.S. Housing and Urban Develompment / HUD

Some Michigan residents are turned away for housing even if they can afford the rent for an apartment or the mortgage for a home. In many cases, landlords and bankers can legally discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. This discrimination happens even in communities with laws protecting LGBT people.

Michigan has no state law protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from being discriminated against when it comes to housing. Anti-gay rights advocates say no law is necessary because there are no documented cases of discrimination against LGBT people.

But, in a widely cited report, Michigan’s Fair Housing Centers found there is discrimination by landlords, real estate agents, banks and others involved in housing even in cities where laws prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

user Marlith / Flickr

Some Michigan legislators have pushed bills calling for religious liberties to be honored through law. But one person’s religious liberty might be another person’s religious suppression.

Much of the debate about same-sex marriage is centered in people’s religious beliefs. The religion with the most followers in Michigan is the Catholic Church. It opposes same-sex marriage.

“Marriage from the Catholic perspective is between one man and one woman because that promotes the creation, the procreation of life,” explained Thomas Hickson, Vice President of Public Policy and Advocacy for the Michigan Catholic Conference

It should be noted that a survey of Michigan voters last year found the majority of people who identified themselves as Catholic approved of same-sex civil unions or marriage. But that’s not the Church’s official position.

Recently the Catholic Conference announced its advocacy priorities for the current legislative session.  Among the religious liberties it intends to defend is a 2004 amendment to the Michigan Constitution. That amendment defines marriage as between one woman and one man. It also bans recognition of similar unions- in other words Michigan cannot grant any of the rights or privileges of marriage to same-sex couples. No adoption rights. No survivor’s benefits. No health insurance for public employees.

But, some other religious organizations view same-sex marriage differently and feel gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people should be treated equally under the law.

user Marlith / Flickr

Michigan’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act protects many people from discrimination.  You cannot be fired from your job because of your religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, family status, or marital status. But you can be fired for being gay. 

Advocates for LGBT people ask why should gay people be singled out for who they are?

But gay rights opponents say this is not about who they are; this is about their behavior.

Gary Glenn is with American Family Association – Michigan.

“We don’t believe that, for example, a Christian bookstore should be forced to hire some guy who claims to be a woman and wants to wear a dress to work and use the women’s restroom. We don’t believe that a Catholic school ought to be forced to hire an openly homosexual man as a football coach, for example.”

Glenn says it would be an infringement of employers’ rights if Michigan were to amend the state’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act to protect LGBT people.

user Marlith / Flickr

We’d like to think all people are treated equally in America.

In fact, we think our system is set up to make sure that happens. There are, though, people who are not protected.

If the pollsters are right, here’s something you probably don’t know:

It’s perfectly legal to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.

A Gallup poll reported nearly nine out of ten people think LGBT people are already protected.

They are not.

A task force says electing Michigan Supreme Court justices should not be as partisan, or as much about money, as other political offices. But according to one watchdog group, last year the Michigan Supreme Court campaign was the most expensive, most secretive judicial election in America. Several recommendations to get some of the politics and secret money out of the Supreme Court elections were ignored by the legislature last year.

It’s coming up on a year since the Judicial Selection Task Force issued a report recommending changes to how we elect Michigan Supreme Court justices. Since then we elected three to the bench. Although the candidates ran on the non-partisan section of the ballot, politics was involved from the beginning.

“Michigan is unusual in that our Supreme Court race is so partisan. The candidates are nominated at a party convention,” said Susan Smith, President of the League of Women Voters of Michigan. Continuing, she said, “And, even though it doesn’t say on the ballot how they got nominated or which party nominated them, it’s really a farce, then, to put it up as a non-partisan election.”

And if politics is not far removed from electing Supreme Court justices, neither is money.

Correction:     An earlier version of this story spelled "Corunna" incorrectly. It has been fixed.

The Corunna Public School District is facing a federal lawsuit after a lesbian teacher was fired. The controversy started with a Diversity Club at the high school in the small town west of Flint.

Brook Johnson was a teacher/advisor to the Diversity Club. In 2009 the club decided to put up a display in honor of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender History month. It featured photos of celebrities who had come out as gay or lesbian. It caused controversy and the school board ordered it removed.

The ACLU challenged the decision. The Corunna Board of Education changed its position and allowed the display.

The lawsuit alleges the administration then turned on Johnson, ostracizing her and then forcing her out.

A new draft report finds allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians hurts Michigan’s economy. The state’s Civil Rights Commission is reviewing the report and might take action.

In Michigan it’s legal to discriminate against people who are Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or Transgender. Housing and job discrimination are a couple of the examples that are allowed by law.

Andy Nguyen / Flickr

The State of the State speech outlines what the Governor sees as spending priorities for the state. But state taxes and spending are only part of the story.   Michigan Watch has learned recovering from the Great Recession will not go as well in Michigan as the rest of the nation this year.

A judge has ruled the organization which sets the mandatory fee for no-fault auto insurance must disclose how it calculates the fee. 

user robscomputer / Flickr

Legislation would give private adoption agencies the legal right to turn down prospective parents for any moral or religious reason.  That’s what’s in a pair of bills being considered by lawmakers in Lansing.

The bills would guarantee private adoption agencies working on state contracts would be protected from rules that could compromise their religious or moral convictions.

A lot more money was spent in this election year than in past elections and much of that money at the national level and in Michigan was so-called ‘dark money.’

“Literally hundreds of millions not traceable to any donor in federal campaigns and certainly tens-of-millions in Michigan election campaigns," said Rich Robinson with the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

Policy-makers, politicos, and pundits are trying to figure out what the rejection of all the statewide ballot proposals means. 

Tens-of-millions of dollars were spent in getting the proposals on the ballot and then promoting them.

John Bebow is with the Center for Michigan which operates Bridge magazine and the Truth Squad. He said there’s one clear message, “The ballot wasn’t for sale this year. That’s what voter’s said.”

Political ads are filling the airwaves, but it’s not always easy to know what is true and what is not.

Michigan Watch has teamed up with the Center for Michigan’s Truth Squad to sort it out.

Today we look at Proposal 5 ads. That’s the proposal requiring a two-thirds majority of the legislature or a vote of the people for any state tax increase.

We’re going to start out with the proponents of Proposal 5, the Michigan Alliance for Prosperity. They want you to vote ‘yes.’

John Bebow and the Truth Squad reviewed several radio ads the group is running.

user Steve & Christine from USA / Wikipedia

There are five proposed amendments to the Michigan Constitution on the ballot. One that could be a game changer for the State of Michigan is Proposal Five, the so-called "two-thirds" proposal. 

Proposal 5 seems pretty straightforward. Right now it takes a simple majority of the legislature to pass a tax increase. If passed, Proposal 5 would require a supermajority of two-thirds of the legislature or a vote of the people to pass a tax increase.

Those for Proposal 5

After the presidential race, the top of the ballot in Michigan is the U.S. Senate race.  Michigan Watch teamed up with the Center for Michigan’s Truth Squad to review recent ads produced by Republican Pete Hoekstra and Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow.

Truth Squad on Prop 4

Oct 16, 2012

Michigan voters have plenty of homework to do before election day. One of the more complicated of the five proposed amendments to the Michigan Constitution is Proposal 4.  Michigan Watch teamed up with the Center for Michigan’s Truth Squad to review the ads.

One of the proposed constitutional amendments on the Michigan ballot this fall would require a statewide vote before state money could be spent on any “new international bridges or tunnels for motor vehicles” could be built in Michigan. The amendment would require the vote even before any tax money could be spent planning an international crossing. This would effectively stop the New International Trade Crossing between Detroit and Windsor. The effort is funded by the family that owns the Ambassador bridge.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Five proposed amendments to the state Constitution and one other referendum will appear on the ballot on election day. Political commercials are on your TV making arguments for and against many of the proposals.  Michigan Watch teamed up with the Center for Michigan’s Truth Squad to look at the ads for and against Proposal 3.

Five proposed amendments to the state Constitution and one other referendum will appear on the ballot on election day. We’ll see a lot of political commercials in the final weeks before we go to the polls. Michigan Watch is teaming up with the Center for Michigan’s Truth Squad to look at some of those ads.

As election day approaches, you’re likely to see a lot of ads critical of an agreement between Canada and Michigan regarding a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor.

[Ad Clip:] “It will cost Michigan taxpayers $100 million a year.”

Whether Michigan taxpayers are on the hook for the cost of that bridge is at the heart of a fierce debate about the agreement.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

You’ve got a lot to decide on election day. It’s not just who will be president, or elected to Congress or to the state legislature. There will be five state constitutional amendments. Some people are concerned about whether adding a lot of Constitutional amendments muddies a document that is designed to be a clear guide for the state.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

One of the prominent social issues this election year is gay marriage. During the Republican National Convention, the party’s platform and political leaders said marriage is limited to one man and one woman. The Democratic platform calls for allowing same sex marriage.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm spoke at the Democratic National Convention last night. She got the crowd on its feet and social media abuzz. 

The former Governor argued that no one helped Michigan when the auto industry collapsed.

“Almost nobody had the guts to help us. Not the banks. Not the private investors. And not Bain Capital. But, in 2009 the cavalry arrived and our new president, Barack Obama, came in.”

The speech just grew more intense from there.

Buttons for sale at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Michigan delegates are meeting and debating and planning at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

But the delegates are also buying stuff.

One of the things you find at these political conventions are souvenirs. 

I pulled Michelle Evans Pejokovich off the cash register for a moment to tell us what they're hawking.

"We have t-shirts, iPhone covers, car magnets, bracelets, bangles, cuff links, t-shirts, tote bags, runway for change," said Pejokovich.

Some of the other items for sale:

DTE Energy CEO Gerard Anderson asked Michigan delegates to the Democratic National Convention to oppose a state constitutional amendment increasing the use of renewable energy. The proposed so-called 25 by 25 amendment would mandate 25 percent of electricity come from renewable sources such as wind, solar, or bio-fuels by the year 2025. It will appear on the ballot in November.

Anderson says he’s not opposed to increasing the use of renewable energy, but it should be done through the legislature, not by amending the constitution.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Delegates here have heard from Dow Chemical Company, DTE, the AFL-CIO, various Democratic Party officials and Bob King. King is the President of the United Auto Workers and in Michigan, that carries weight.

He told them Michigan delegates that the platform approved by the Republicans at their convention calls for restricting labor’s right to bargain.

“The baby step in my mind is that they’d pass a national ‘Right to Work.’ They want to do much more than that. They want to take away the right from workers to bargain on conditions at work, their pensions, their healthcare.”

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Leading Michigan Democrats are in Charlotte, North Carolina for the Democratic National Convention.
They all say Michigan will go for Obama on election day.

This is a partisan crowd. So, of course, they're going to say the President will be re-elected. But these Democrats also know that recent polls show Mr. Obama and Republican nominee and native son Mitt Romney are in a dead heat in Michigan.

Former Governor James Blanchard says Democrats must work hard if they want their man back in the White House.

Michigan Democrats say they welcome the question of whether President Obama’s record leaves Americans better off than they were four years ago.

Democrats get down to the business of explaining their case to re-elect Barack Obama today. Michigan delegates say Republican Mitt Romney’s plan for economic recovery is no different than President George Bush’s.

U.S. Senator Carl Levin says the contrast is that simple.

Pages