Michigan Democrats push for LGBT rights protections in state’s civil rights act

Michigan

Michigan state capitol in Lansing.

Michigan

Michigan state capitol in Lansing.

LANSING, Mich. — Democrat lawmakers are asking the Legislature to add protections for LGBT people to Michigan’s civil rights act.

House and Senate legislators announced bills on Wednesday that would add protections for sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression into the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

The effort comes a day after a Senate committee held a hearing on a bill that backers say protects people’s religious freedoms. Opponents say it permits discrimination against gays and others.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has threatened to veto the legislation unless lawmakers also extend anti-discrimination protections to gays.

Gideon D’Assandro is House Speaker Kevin Cotter’s spokesman. He says the Republican majority is not interested in revisiting the issue after it failed to pass last session.

On Tuesday, members of the Michigan Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on whether Michigan needs a law that backers say protects people’s religious freedoms and opponents say permits discrimination against gays and others.

The bill appears to have little chance of passing and may not go any further in the Legislature. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has threatened to veto the legislation unless lawmakers also extend anti-discrimination protections to gays, and Republican Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Rick Jones of Grand Ledge said Tuesday that no further hearings were planned on the measure.

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Amber McCann, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, said Meekhof has requested that there only be a hearing at this time, and no decision has been made yet about further action.

The bill would let people who say their exercise of religion has been substantially burdened by government cite the law in a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding.

Bill sponsor Sen. Mike Shirkey, a Republican from Clarklake, said the language is “substantially different” from Indiana‘s religious objections law that recently prompted a backlash.

The bill “is not a license to discriminate,” Shirkey said.

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