Gov. Whitmer signs expansion of Elliot Larsens Act protecting LGBTQ rights in Michigan

It was a historic day in Michigan toward protecting members of the LGBTQ community as Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed the expansion of the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act, banning discrimination against anyone based on who they are, or who they love.

"I am so proud to be here," said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. "And I am excited to put our state on the right side of history."

On Thursday, Whitmer joined former State Representative Mel Larsen, one-half the namesake of Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act of 1976, as she signed an expansion of the bill. It protects the rights of those within the LGBTQ+ community relating to employment, housing, education and access to accommodations.

People like Nzere Zwabena, the founding director of LGBT Detroit which has been around since the early 90s.

"I live in the intersection of what it is to be an African-American and LGBT person," he said. "This decision impacts one experience that I have personally, an experience that I know from the other half historically. To be discriminated against says that you're not welcome here, and you must go someplace else.

"Many people before me fought to make sure that that doesn't happen."

Nzere is referring to the time a former employer fired him after learning during a radio interview, that he was gay. It is something Nzere says he never hid privately, but felt no pressure to share professionally.

"When they heard my confession on the radio of my identity, one part of my identity, I was told explicitly, that's why I was terminated," he said. "So it wasn't a surprise, I was told explicitly because of my affection to the same gender."

It’s a story he says, many other Michiganders in the LGBTQ community can relate to, further highlighting the importance of this expansion.

"The lack of protections impacted me and my future in remaining a Michigan resident. and I thought at that time, I had to leave," he said. "To actually witness decisions that favored us, favored Michigan, you know, I still get tingles. Because I lived my life here knowing that Michigan wasn't completely safe."

Twenty-three senators voted in favor, 15 voted against - and to them, Nzere has this to say:

"I would ask you to go to your constituents and have a deeper dive conversation about the benefits of this amendment," Nzere said, "I would ask you to recognize that not only has time changed, they will continue to change."