Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday joined with Democratic lawmakers and others to get behind newly introduced legislation that would expand Michigan’s civil rights law to include protections for LGBT people, saying it is time for the state to be on the “right side of history.”
The Democrat has previously supported a yearslong effort to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations. But advocates said having a sitting governor in their corner at a time the Republican-led House and Senate both have openly gay members for the first time is “historic.”
“It’s time to get Michigan on the right side of history,” Whitmer said during a news conference at her Capitol ceremonial office, where legislators held a rainbow flag. “In the year 2019, nobody – nobody – should be fired from their job or evicted from their home based on who they love or how they identify.”
GOP lawmakers have not embraced such bills in the past, or have insisted that they be paired with a religious objections measure that is opposed by backers of LGBT rights. Asked if a ballot initiative would be a viable option if the bill remains bottled up, Whitmer said regular legislation is the “preferred route” but a ballot measure is always a possibility.
The Michigan Civil Rights Commission last year said discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is a form of “sex” discrimination outlawed under the 1976 civil rights law. But Democrats said it is important to actually change the law.
“We need to make sure that we put pen to paper, that we put our values into the laws of Michigan so there is never a question about, ‘Will I have protection? Will my rights, will my love, will my life be dependent on who happens to sit in that seat on the Civil Rights Commission?'” said Rep. Jon Hoadley of Kalamazoo.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, a Clarklake Republican, said the legislation will be assigned to a committee and “we’ll just see what happens.”