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Activists gathered 500,000 signatures to force Michigan’s legislature to vote on LGBTQ civil rights

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LGBTQ advocates in Michigan are trying to get civil rights protections passed in that state through a massive petition drive, and they might actually succeed.

A coalition of 37 organizations led by Fair and Equal Michigan say they have gathered 530,000 signatures for a petition to have the state legislature vote on a law that would define “sex” in state anti-discrimination legislation to include sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.

Related: Transgender man named Michigan Teacher of the Year

The state of Michigan never passed a law that would outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Instead, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission decided in 2018 that it would treat anti-LGBTQ discrimination as a form of sex-based discrimination.

But mere months later, the state’s then-Attorney General Bill Schuette (R) issued a legal opinion that declared the commission’s decision “invalid.”

So the organizations are taking matters into their own hands and got a petition together to add protections for LGBTQ people to the state’s anti-discrimination law. They needed 340,047 signatures and they got 530,000, but they will be submitting 483,461.

Once certified, the state’s house and senate will have to vote on it within 40 days. They can’t pass amendments; the legislatures will either have to accept the proposal or send it to the ballot, where residents of the state will be able to vote on it in 2022.

“Michigan stands united to finally prohibit the discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people. Given the 38 years of inaction by the Legislature, more than 500,000 Michiganders signed a petition to right this wrong and compel passage of equal rights,” the coalition said in a statement.

“LGBTQ people have been fired from their job, kicked out of their house, or denied basic services simply for who they are or who they love. We are witnessing a sea change toward equal rights for all, and we call upon lawmakers to be on the right side of history. The state house and senate must pass the citizens’ bill as written for a Fair and Equal Michigan ensuring all have an equal chance to succeed.”

In a release, the coalition said that they raised nearly $3 million this past year for the initiative.

This past year, a court ruled that some of the state’s anti-discrimination protections apply to transgender people but not to gay and bisexual people. That ruling is being appealed.

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