MICHIGAN: LGBT Measure Cleared For Petition Stage

Over the objections of the ACLU and Equality Michigan, activists at Fair Michigan have cleared a procedural hurdle and will be allowed to begin gathering petition signatures to place an LGBT rights bill on the 2016 state ballot. The Detroit Free Press reports:

Supporters of amending Michigan’s constitution to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity cleared an initial procedural step Tuesday when the Michigan Board of State Canvassers approved the form and wording of the petition.

The Fair Michigan ballot committee’s petition form, in order to make the November 2016 statewide ballot, will require about 315,000 valid voter signatures. The deadline for submitting the signatures is July 11, Elections Bureau Director Chris Thomas said.

The state constitution bars discrimination because of religion, race, color or national origin. The amendment would add gender, gender identity, sex and sexual orientation protections.

Sara Wurfel, a spokeswoman for Fair Michigan, said the group — co-chaired by Detroit civil rights attorney Dana Nessel and Republican attorney and Lansing insider Richard McLellan — will start collecting signatures in January.

More from the Associated Press:

The Fair Michigan ballot committee now must gather roughly 315,000 valid voter signatures by summer to put the initiative on the November statewide ballot. But it must do so without the backing of major gay rights advocacy groups such as Equality Michigan and the American Civil Liberties Union. Those organizations oppose the 2016 measure because they worry voters will defeat it, and they want to focus on other approaches, including lobbying lawmakers for new legislation.

Equality Michigan supports continuing to lobby legislators for the next three or four years instead of pursuing the 2016 ballot measure, executive director Steph White said. “The whole LGBT movement is pretty united on that path,” she said. “None of the (poll) numbers I’ve seen indicated any hope for this to win.”

The GOP-dominated state legislature has long blocked any attempts to put forward an LGBT rights bill.