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Michigan civil rights panel urges local communities to guard LGBT rights

Michigan civil rights panel urges local communities to guard LGBT rights

DETROIT — Michigan’s civil rights law doesn’t include protections for gay and transgender people, but the Michigan Civil Rights Commission on Monday endorsed a model local non-discrimination ordinance that does cover sexual orientation and gender identity.

The commission approved the text of the ordinance at a meeting at the Holocaust Memorial Center in the Detroit suburb of Farmington Hills.

The language says that a no one should be denied “civil rights or be discriminated against” because of a range of characteristics, including gender expression, gender identity and sexual orientation. The model law also bars bias based on age, disability, education, family status, marriage, national origin, race, religion, sex and weight.

“The concept of developing a model non-discrimination ordinance grew from the fact that more than 30 Michigan municipalities have non-discrimination ordinances that vary significantly in their structure, wording and scope,” commission chairman Arthur Horwitz said in a statement.

He said the state Department of Civil Rights, which operates under the commission, “developed model language that municipalities could access if, in their own discretion, they decided they wanted a starting point for their own discussions and deliberations.”

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The commission’s vote follows its November resolution urging legislators to add sexual orientation to Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

“Communities all over Michigan have been waiting for the legislature to expand civil rights law to protect their LGBT residents, and many are deciding they can wait no longer,” said Matt Wesaw, Michigan Department of Civil Rights director. “The right thing to do is to expand Elliott-Larsen to include protection for gender expression and gender identity.”

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In a January appearance before the commission, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder said he hoped the GOP-controlled Michigan Legislature would continue discussing a bill to add protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to the state civil rights law. The measure died in November.

House Speaker Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant, has said the measure shouldn’t be debated again.

“The executive and the legislative branches of our government are diametrically at odds,” said state Rep. Gary Glenn, who in 2004 led the successful effort to win voter approval of a gay marriage ban into the Michigan Constitution.

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The Midland Republican and American Family Association of Michigan leader told The Associated Press that local gay and gender identity rights laws are a “solution in search of a nonexistent problem” and “have a history of themselves being discriminatory” by forcing people to choose between their moral or religious beliefs and following the law.

The draft ordinance is here (PDF).

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