A Michigan group seeking to expand discrimination protections for “sexual orientation and gender identity” cleared its first major hurdle Tuesday.
The Michigan Board of State Canvassers approved the language of a petition submitted earlier this month by Fair and Equal Michigan. The group now has until May 27 to collect 340,000 signatures to force the Legislature to take up the initiative. If the Republican-controlled State Legislature does not act or approve the bill, it will then be placed on the November 3 ballot.
The proposed law would update the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in the areas of housing, public accommodations, public service, and education on the basis of sex, religion, and eight other factors. The ballot initiative wants to redefine “sex” to include “gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression,” and redefine “religion” to include “the religious beliefs of an individual.”
“Oftentimes in the LGBTQ community we see harm, violence, murder, and discrimination justified through religious bias, but I believe that God has love, grace and mercy sufficient for us all,” said Jeynce Poindexter, co-chair of Fair and Equal Michigan. “It’s important for all of us to come together, not with our politics but with and for people to move this work forward and finally right this wrong.”
Fair and Equal Michigan is a coalition of groups and politicians seeking increased legal protections for the LGBT community. A number of prominent businesses expressed support for the idea in a press release issued earlier this month, including Apple CEO Tim Cook.
“Every Michigander should have an equal chance at success, without threat of being fired, harassed, or demoted just because the boss doesn’t like that they’re gay or transgender,” said Trevor Thomas, co-chair and president of Fair and Equal Michigan. “After waiting 37 years, this effort gives the Legislature eight additional months to pass these basic human rights. If they can’t get the job done, our Constitution affords Michiganders the right to vote to ensure that workers are judged on the job they do, not who they are or who they love.”
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