Last year, some Michigan politicians introduced proposed legislation to amend Michigan’s main employment civil rights statute, the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA), to protect employees who are gay from discrimination. That legislation, however, didn’t go anywhere. And going into the elections this November the future of that legislation is, at best, uncertain and, more likely, not going anywhere for the foreseeable future.
Current LGBT Legislation Landscape
Specifically, as Michigan Public Radio noted, Frank Foster, a Michigan Republican Representative, was a sponsor to legislation to add LGBT protections to Michigan’s ELCRA. But he lost in this past August primary to Tea Party challenger Lee Chatfield.
It is far from certain that Mr. Foster’s backing for LGBT protections was the political nail in his coffin: Michigan Public Radio noted that Foster was identified 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.” But LGBT rights were certainly an issue. Making it further unlikely that prohibitions against LGBT employment protections will not go anywhere is the fact that Gary Glenn, co-author of Michigan’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, also one his primary.
This Republican hostility towards LGBT equality is in stark contrast to Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, who has previously said 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. However, Governor Snyder has, to date, not shown the political backbone to carry this issue within his Republican party.
Conversely, on the Democratic side of the aisle, pro-gay rights candidates won a number of primaries and – for the first time in Michigan political history – two openly gay candidates won their primaries for open House seats. Additionally, the cities of East Lansing and Jackson passed resolutions calling on the Michigan Legislature to add protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity without further delay. Also, Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo and Sterling Heights have recently passed resolutions in support of statewide nondiscrimination protections for gay and transgender people.
The Future for LGBT Legislative Action?
If there is a takeaway, it is being pro-gay rights is a liability on the Republican side of the fence, being gay is not a barrier to winning a Democratic seat, and a growing number of communities support prohibitions against discriminating against members in the LGBT community. For more information about restricting LGBT discrimination see Sexual Orientation Discrimination and Michigan Law – Is it a Time for a Change?