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Senate adopts Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act expansion to include LGBTQ rights

Cecilie Johnsen

The Michigan Senate voted Wednesday to expand the state's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include LGBTQ rights.

Democratic Senator Jeremy Moss, who sponsored the bill, was handed the gavel to preside over the vote on his legislation.

“A majority of the members elected and serving having voted, the bill is passed,” he announced to applause in the Senate chamber and gallery.

Earlier, Moss delivered his final argument on the Senate floor. He said it’s taken four decades to add LGBTQ protections in housing, employment and public accommodations.

“When this vote comes on the board, you will tell generations of people yet to come that they have a future, too,” he said.

Three Republicans crossed over to join Democrats on the 23-15 vote to adopt the bill. Opponents argued the measure could infringe on religious rights.

“This legislation will create impossible-to-resolve conflicts for churches, individuals, employers and employees,” said Republican Senator Ed McBroom, who delivered a half-hour speech opposing the bill. He said it will upset cultural norms and violate religious freedom rights.

Previous efforts to expand the law have languished, but the Senate’s new Democratic majority included adding LGBTQ rights in its list of priorities.

“It is unethical to deny someone a job because of who they are. It is immoral to deny someone their right to identify how they choose, and how they truly are inside of themselves,” said Democratic Senator Stephanie Chang, who chairs the Senate Civil Rights, Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.

The civil rights law already offers protection against discrimination based on “religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status.” The Michigan Supreme Court ruled last year that the word “sex” in the law also covers discrimination against LGBTQ people.

Advocates have called for that decision to be cemented in state law, so it can’t be reversed by future courts. Governor Gretchen Whitmer has said she is eager to sign the bill into law.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.
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