MI Approves Extending Civil Rights to LGBTQ Community
Advocates for Michigan's LGBTQ community are calling lawmakers' move to expand the state's civil rights law to include them a victory that's "been a long time coming."
The measure, Senate Bill 4, turns a series of court rulings into codified law, giving protections from bias based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
Tracy Hall, executive director of OutFront Kalamazoo, a community resource center, said that because the state's Democrat-controlled Legislature put the law on the books, LGBTQ rights can't easily be undone.
"We had a court ruling, we had local ordinances - but now, we actually have field protections in our state statute that do protect us when it comes to hiring and firing, public accommodations and housing," she said, "and these are big things."
Michigan joins 22 other states and Washington, D.C., to extend basic civil rights to the LGBTQ community. It was approved 64-45 in the House, and immediately signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Most but not all Republicans opposed the legislation, calling it a threat to religious freedom.
Halls said previous attempts to pass LGBTQ-rights legislation have stalled in Republican-controlled legislatures. She said the rising conservative tide that is pushing anti-transgender measures in other states makes the new Michigan law even more important.
"It's a huge deal, and especially in a time where you see anti-LGBTQ laws all over the country," she said. "So, for Michigan to stand out like that, it means the world to me."
According to Equality Michigan, more than 30 groups across the state advocate for the rights of LGBTQ citizens. Hall said her group, OutFront Kalamazoo, serves as both a gathering place and a community resource.
"We are an LGBTQIA community/resource center, and we provide programs, services, support groups, we put on events," she said. "I try to, and I think our team tries to, make this that 'safe space.'"