Freedom Michigan coalition members are speaking out against a bill introduced by State Rep. Frank Foster (R-Petoskey) that would allow continued discrimination against transgender individuals in Michigan. They’re calling on the Legislature to either amend this bill to include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression protections or support fully-inclusive legislation already introduced by Rep. Sam Singh (D-Lansing).
Rep. Foster had long-pledged to introduce legislation to protect gay and transgender Michiganders from discrimination. However, in an 11th hour move, the legislation introduced Wednesday denies protections on the basis of gender identity. Freedom Michigan, the broad coalition of business, civil rights, religious and LGBT leaders founded by the Michigan Competitive Workforce Coalition, slammed the exclusionary bill and called on legislative leaders to move forward legislation that would end discrimination against all LGBT Michigan residents.
“Businesses agree an inclusive update to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act is needed because we know our state’s economic success is dependent on recruiting and retaining top talent,” said Josh Linkner, noted Michigan entrepreneur and founding partner of Detroit Venture Partners. “We need to make it clear that Michigan is open for business. But passing legislation that permits discrimination against one group of people because of who they are would undermine our efforts to keep Michigan competitive and on the cutting edge of innovation.”
The Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act makes it illegal to discriminate based on religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status. Research shows 75 percent of Michigan residents support updating ELCRA to protect LGBT people, and many communities across Michigan have taken measures to update their civil rights ordinances to include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression protections.
“It’s unconscionable that lawmakers would move forward a bill that fails to protect the tens of thousands of transgender people who call Michigan home,” said Shelley Padnos, business leader and Vice President of PADNOS Scrap Management. “Governor Snyder has already called for an inclusive bill, and we are confident that if a bill including transgender protections were called to a vote right now, it would pass. The harmful bill introduced today falls short of what the Michigan Competitive Workforce Coalition was formed to advocate for and should be rejected or amended in favor of a fully inclusive bill.”
The Michigan Competitive Workforce Coalition was formed by business organizations and non-profit groups to win legislative approval of the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. The coalition expanded its efforts last week by launching, Freedom Michigan, a campaign that already has seen tens of thousands of Michigan residents sign a pledge calling for an end to discrimination in our state. The campaign will deploy organizers and volunteers needed to amplify support in key legislative districts across the state for updating the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.
“If you believe in the basic value that discrimination is wrong, this bill doesn’t just fall short of fully protecting all Michiganders, it sets our state back,” said Kary Moss, executive director of the ACLU of Michigan and co-chair of the Michigan Competitive Workforce Coalition. “This shameful bill ignores the 80 percent of transgender people who report experiencing widespread discrimination in the workplace. We are unwavering in our commitment to passing legislation that specifically protects transgender people and we call on lawmakers to do the right thing.”