Michigan Sees Push To Place LGBT Protections On Ballot

Michigan Bridge reports:

A coalition of civil rights, business and political leaders is launching a petition drive initiative to expand Michigan law by including anti-discrimination protections for gay and transgender residents.

Organizers who announced the effort Tuesday hope to spur action by the Republican-led Legislature, whose leaders have cited religious freedom concerns in resisting similar legislation, or put the issue on the November ballot for voters to decide.

Petition language submitted to state election officials would expand the definition of “sex” in the Michigan Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act of 1976 to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity or expression,” guaranteeing safeguards in housing, public accommodation and employment.

Bloomberg Law reports:

Corporate leaders of Apple Inc., Verizon Communications, and Whirlpool Corp. are pushing for permanent legal protections for LGBT Michiganders that the state’s legislature has rebuffed for decades. The companies are part of a corporate and activist collaboration seeking to expand state anti-discrimination law to cover a person’s gender identity and sexual orientation through a citizen referendum on the November 2020 ballot.

The state currently has in place tenuous protections for LGBT workers through a reinterpretation of state anti-discrimination law by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission. While current Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) supports the agency’s action, conservative groups and the state’s GOP former AG Bill Schuette (R) have called that reinterpretation unconstitutional. That means a change in leadership at the commission and attorney general’s office could narrow or eliminate the current protections.

The Detroit News reports:

The citizen-initiated ballot measure seeks an expansion of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, a 1976 law that already bars discrimination based on religion, race, age, sex and other attributes. The expansion has been debated for years in the state Capitol, with Republican legislative leaders saying they wanted to ban discrimination, but only as long as it would not infringe on religious rights.

Fair and Equal Michigan submitted its petition language Tuesday to the Department of State. The Board of State Canvassers has until Feb. 6 to approve or reject the petition language. If the campaign gathers enough valid signatures, it would first go before the state Legislature. If legislative leaders decline to vote on it or approve it, the initiative would go before voters.