Whitmer, Nessel and Dem lawmakers lift up LGBTQ+ rights bill before likely Senate vote

By: - February 27, 2023 1:25 pm

LGBTQ+ Pride flag | Susan J. Demas

A roundtable discussion Friday in Ferndale featured Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel and members of the LGBTQ+ community discussing the proposed expansion of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA).

Legislation introduced last month would add prohibitions against discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation to the state’s civil rights law. Whitmer told the Advance in an interview last month that signing the legislation “would mean a tremendous amount” to her.

“We must ensure that Michigan is a welcoming place for people to live and build their future,” said Whitmer on Friday. “That’s why I was honored to join elected officials, community leaders, and allies to highlight the importance of expanding the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, so no one can be fired or evicted for who they are. We need to get this done so we can make Michigan the best place to live, work, and raise a family.”

Also present at Friday’s gathering was state Senator Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield), who sponsored Senate Bill 4, that would prohibit discrimination in employment, public accommodations and public services, educational facilities, and housing and real estate based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity or expression. 

The Senate is expected to vote on the bill this week. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and leaders in a roundtable discussion on LGBTQ+ rights, Feb. 24, 2023 | Whitmer office photo

“Our LGBTQ community is vibrant and contributes economically, culturally and civically to the State of Michigan. We are not asking for anything more than anyone else has but we are also not going to accept anything less than equal protection under the law,” said Moss. “We will not live in the shadows – we are your family members, your friends, your neighbors and your colleagues. The legislation we will soon be sending to the Governor for her signature will ensure LGBTQ people can freely live our lives in Michigan with secure housing and employment, free from discrimination.”   

Senate Bill 4 passed through the Senate’s Civil Rights, Judiciary and Public Safety Committee earlier this month, the farthest the legislation has gone after being stymied by past Republican-controlled legislatures.

Once signed into law, it would codify a 5-2 Michigan Supreme Court decision last summer that interpreted ELCRA as protecting against sex discrimination including sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Equality Michigan, its predecessors and the LGBTQ+ community have been working to update our state’s civil rights law to explicitly include sexual orientation, gender identity and expression in every single legislative session subsequent to the adoption of Elliott-Larsen,” said Erin Knott, Executive Director, Equality Michigan. “After decades of hard work, countless sacrifices, and generations of courageous leaders, we are witnessing a sea of change toward equal rights for all.” 

Moderating the panel was state Rep. Jason Hoskins (D-Southfield), whose House Bill 4003 is the companion piece to Moss’ legislation.

“As the first openly Gay Black person in the Michigan Legislature, I feel truly humbled to be able to lend my voice to this movement,” said Hoskins. “I’m excited to help build a more [welcoming] Michigan that lets the world know – we’re open for business.” 


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Jon King
Jon King

Jon King has been a journalist for more than 35 years. He is the Past President of the Michigan Associated Press Media Editors Association and has been recognized for excellence numerous times, most recently in 2021 with the Best Investigative Story by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Cleary University. Jon and his family live in Howell, where he also serves on the Board of Directors for the Livingston Diversity Council.