Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said Thursday, May 29, 2014 that he would like to see Michigan lawmakers amend the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include language about sexual orientation and gender identity before the end of the year. These statements were made in an interview with Crain’s Detroit Business, as reported by Chris Gautz.

Currently Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act prohibits employment, public accommodations, public services, education, and housing discrimination based on race, religion, color, national origin, sex, age, marital status, height, weight, and arrest records — sadly, it does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. 

Crain’s Detroit also reported that Rick Baker, President and CEO of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, and Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit chamber support amending Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. Ms. Baruah further explained:

Michigan’s business community is sending a very clear message about the importance of workforce diversity to our state’s future. We are in a global war for talent, and need the best and brightest workforce to compete in the 21st century economy, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. We are committed to a Michigan where all are free and welcome to contribute to our economic comeback.

I share Ms. Baruah’s beliefs and reasons for amending Michigan employment laws to protect against sexual orientation discrimination. See my October of 2013 article, Sexual Orientation Discrimination and Michigan Law – Is it a Time for a Change?, calling for the amendment of Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Gov. Snyder’s newly expressed support as well as the support of business leaders for such an amendment is an important step in the right direction for Michigan, its employees and Michigan businesses. And with the growing support for this amendment, one can be optimistic that this will translate into action.

For more information about sexual orientation discrimination and compliance with federal and Michigan employment laws, contact employment attorney Jason Shinn.