March 3, 2020

LANSING, MI – The Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti (A2Y) Regional Chamber’s Board of Directors has formally endorsed the Fair and Equal Michigan campaign to add protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to the state Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights ACT.

“Protecting everyone against discrimination is key to attracting and keeping some of the most talented people in the world. The Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and all of Washtenaw County benefit from the remarkable people who work and create jobs here, and we need to ensure they will come and stay here by protecting their civil rights.”  said Andy LaBarre, Executive VP, A2Y Chamber. “We will remain at a competitive disadvantage until we show the world that Michigan is a welcoming place. The Legislature should affirm this effort and ensure every person in Michigan is both legally protected and affirmatively welcomed. Our businesses will see more success with this common sense legislation in place.”

"We are thankful to the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti Chamber for their leadership and advocacy for ensuring everyone in Michigan has a fair and equal chance to succeed. The growing business support we are receiving demonstrates clearly that our citizen-initiated law will make Michigan a more attractive place for businesses and their employees to grow," said Fair and Equal Michigan Co-Chair Trevor Thomas.

The Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act protects Michigan individuals against discrimination in employment, public accommodation and housing based on 10 factors, including age, race, sex, and religion. The Fair and Equal Michigan initiative would protect LGBTQ individuals under the law by clarifying that the term “sex” includes “gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression.”

Once Fair and Equal Michigan collects the 340,047 valid signatures required, the Michigan Legislature will have 40 days to adopt the proposed amendments to the state civil rights law without change. If the Legislature does not act, or rejects the proposal, it will be submitted to Michigan voters for approval at the November 3, 2020, General Election.

“The Legislature will have a fantastic opportunity to put these protections in place and they should act on it. If they won’t, it will be important for the business community to actively explain to voters how we all benefit with these protections.”

A non-partisan survey of 600 registered voters by the Glengariff Group shows 77.5 percent of likely 2020 Michigan General Election voters support legislation to amend the state’s civil rights law to protect LGBTQ people.  Importantly, the poll found that 75 percent of leaning GOP voters and 66 percent of strong Republican voters also support the initiative. Read the A2Y Chamber statement below.



A2Y Regional Chamber Statement Supporting the Fair and Equal Michigan Ballot Initiative

February 28, 2020

Protection against discrimination is a foundational value for our Chamber. Since 2014 the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti (A2Y) Regional Chamber has officially supported the modernization of Michigan’s Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA) to include protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Most Michigan businesses have already put internal policies in place to provide this protection to their employees. It is long past time for our state to codify these protections in law. Ideally the Michigan Legislature would take action to do this, and that is why our organization has supported such legislation. Despite broad business, community, and bi-partisan support, the Michigan Legislature has failed to act on ELCRA. The A2Y Chamber formally supports the Fair and Equal Michigan effort to provide these protections via a citizen led legislative effort.

What is ELCRA and why it is needed: Michigan remains a state where it is legal to fire or refuse to house someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Amending the ELCRA would rectify this injustice. It would create a level playing field that not only ensures the legal protection of all members of the LGBTQ community, but ensures all individuals are treated with fairness and equity. This is not only the proper step to take for issues or equality and justice, it is in the best interest of Michigan’s business community. The longer our state remains behind on this issue, the longer it will lose out on bright and talented members of our workforce who leave because they do not feel welcome in our state, and it will fail to attract talent that want to make Michigan home but feel unwelcome. Look no further than the longstanding support of companies ranging from Fortune 100 to small family businesses who have all supported amending ELCRA to provide these protections and keep and attract talent.

What Fair and Equal Michigan is and what it is doing: Fair and Equal Michigan is a growing coalition of grassroots citizens, LGBTQ groups, businesses (including Apple, Dow, Consumers Energy, Whirlpool, Herman Miller, and many others), labor groups, philanthropic sectors, and civic leaders on both sides of the political aisle. This coalition is seeking to finally prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people through the right of citizen-initiated legislation afforded by the Michigan Constitution.

Why this type of legislation is needed and how it works: The Michigan Legislature has been unwilling to take action on the ELCRA, so Fair and Equal Michigan is using the authority granted by the Michigan Constitution (Article II, Section 9) to force action on this issue. With petition language to amend ELCRA already approved, Fair and Equal Michigan has until May 27, 2020, to submit petitions including the signatures of at least 340,047 Michigan voters. Once enough valid signatures are submitted, the Michigan Legislature will have 40 days to adopt the proposed amendments to the Act without change. If the Legislature does not Act, or rejects the proposal, it will be submitted to Michigan voters for approval at the November 3, 2020, General Election. Such an effort was last used in 2014 to produce bi-partisan legislation to raise Michigan’s minimum wage.

Business leaders, including the A2Y Chamber, have long called for this common-sense legislation to be enacted to provide both basic and fundamental protections, and to strengthen our state in its pursuit of talented individuals. Ideally, regular legislation would be used to achieve this outcome. Given the importance of the issue and the amount of time already spent, this citizen-initiated legislation is worthy of support, both in content and process. Michigan will benefit when all its people have basic protections against discrimination. The business community has long understood and embraced this notion on its own. Now is the time for Michigan to amend the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The A2Y Chamber formally supports that effort through the work of Fair and Equal Michigan.