Efforts to enhance Michigan LGBTQ+ protections advance past senate committee

Sexual orientation and gender identity are a step closer to being included in Michigan's Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act.

On Thursday, the State Senate Committee on Civil Rights, Judiciary, and Public Safety advanced a bill that would add protections for LGBTQ+ people under the act, which protects people from discrimination on the basis of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status.

"One of my firm beliefs has become that as a public servant and as an employer of approximately 5,000 employees in Oakland County government that we need to let people know that they're in a safe place where they can be their authentic selves," said Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter.

The bill, which was supported by numerous community and business leaders, now heads to the Senate.

"Michigan’s ability to attract talent would be enhanced by an expansion of the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act," said Brad Williams, with the Detroit Regional Chamber.

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However, critics worry about government overreach and its implications for religious communities.

"I’ve represented and worked with hundreds, if not thousands of pastors that are on a different side of this issue. They welcome anybody into their church every week, but they've got a different position in this and it’s grounded not in invidious discrimination, but it's grounded in sincere conscience," Professor William Wagner said. "Both sides of this issue think the other side is hating or is discriminating."