Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed a bill into law that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in employment, housing, and public accommodations. The expansion of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act is a decades-long battle for Michigan’s LGBTQ+ community. This historic legislation marks the first pro-LGBTQ+ law ever passed in the state. Michigan is now the 22nd state in the US to prohibit anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination through legislation.
The original Elliott-Larsen Act was enacted in 1976 to ban discrimination based on race, religion, sex, and other factors. The first bill to add sexual orientation to the act was introduced in 1983 by Rep. Jim Dressel. Despite some Republican support in the past, the expansion of the Elliott-Larsen Act had stalled due to Republican control of the legislature. However, with both houses now having a Democratic majority and Michigan having a Democratic governor, the legislation has finally passed.
The signing ceremony, held at UrbanBeat in the state capital in Lansing, was attended by LGBTQ+ activists, lawmakers, and members of the community. Gay Sen. Jeremy Moss, president pro tempore of the Michigan Senate, called the passage of the legislation a victory for the LGBTQ+ community after a decades-long battle. He mentioned the names of several activists who have worked for this legislation, including Jim Toy, Jeff Montgomery, Henry Messer, and Ruth Ellis.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a lesbian who is the state’s first out elected statewide official, mentioned that in 2015, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for marriage equality, she received calls from newly married same-sex couples who’d been denied services or seen one member fired after marrying. The new law will now prohibit this discrimination.
The passing of this bill is a beacon of hope for those fighting for their rights, according to Human Rights Campaign president Kelley Robinson. Michigan has worked hard and long for this moment, and the LGBTQ+ community could not be prouder to have worked alongside those who made it possible. With the signing of this historic legislation, Michigan has become a leader in protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ people.