For the first time ever, Michigan citizens – including business, philanthropy, and leaders from both sides of the political aisle – joined LGBTQ advocacy groups to proclaim: Every Michigander should have an equal chance to succeed. This legislative strategy, known as Fair and Equal Michigan, will add LGBTQ protections to the state’s current civil rights law. The initiative seeks to introduce a citizens’ bill in the Legislature after advocates collect 340,047 signatures. The Legislature will have 40 days to adopt (and the law prevents tinkering!) or they can send the question to voters on the November 2020 ballot where 77% of voters support the measure. This history-making citizens’ initiative has the opportunity to increase the state’s talent attraction and grow Michigan’s economy.

“This coalition of Michigan citizens has support across LGBTQ groups, the business and philanthropic sectors, and both sides of the political aisle. There is more that brings us together - than forces us apart,” said Hon. Mel Larsen, former Member, Michigan House of Representatives, and former Chairman, Michigan Republican Party.

This is a push for talent attraction and Michigan jobs. With your help, we'll finally solve this problem after more than 37 years of trying to prohibit discrimination of LGBTQ people. The first bill was introduced in 1983 by Republican Rep. Jim Dressel, a former Air Force fighter pilot who received the Distinguished Flying Cross.

“This issue should have been addressed ages ago. Every one of us should be legally entitled to a fair shot at employment, and the decision should be based solely on one thing and one thing only — which candidate is the most qualified. That is just common sense, not a political issue and not some futuristic viewpoint.”

The Mining Journal Editorial Board


The Problem

Every Michigander should have an equal chance at success, without threat of being fired, harassed, or demoted just because the boss doesn't like that they're gay or transgender. In Michigan, you can legally fire an employee for identifying or suspecting that they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. A landlord can kick a person out of their home for the same reason.  Equality Michigan’s hotline reported 1,000+ calls for help in the past four years, including Michiganders facing discrimination in employment, housing, receiving basic services, and bullying in schools.

Did you know?

  • 89% Number of Americans that say they are very likely to support or shop at a business that has a policy prohibiting LGBTQ discrimination, according to an October 2018 Harris Poll.
  • 1,040 Number of calls from LGBTQ people asking Equality Michigan for help in facing discrimination in past four years.
  • $9,660 Average cost for a company to replace an employee who chooses to leave, according to a June 2019 Out Leadership report.
  • 55% Number of people moving out of Michigan compared to moving in, according to United Van Lines 2019 report. The Mitten was the 10th most moved from state in 2018. 

The Paths

Don’t let anyone mislead you, especially people biased toward doing nothing. Consider all the possible paths. National and state experts with winning records have laid out the following scenarios:

Path #1 – Keep waiting.

X  The 2023 State House may expand pro-equality lawmakers, though a majority is not certain.

X  Analysts agree the state senate will not have a pro-equality majority for at least seven years.

X  This path assumes the Governor and Attorney General remain pro-equality in the next election.

Path #2 – State Legislature.

X  Current Speaker of the House: “We will never support,” per a Detroit News January 2019 story.

X  Current Senate Majority Leader: “We will heavily contest,” per an MLIVE January 2019 story.

Path #3 – Congress.

  The U.S. House passed the federal Equality Act in 2019.

X  The U.S. Senate, according to conservative and progressive analysts, will not have the required 60 pro-equality votes to end a filibuster for many years based on key seats and the timing of elections.

Path #4 – Supreme Court.

X  The Court has a conservative majority and is unlikely to affirmatively opine on non-discrimination rights

Path # 5 – State Constitutional Amendment.

X  Large number of signatures required, 425,059

X  Higher cost to persuade voters to change the Constitution

X  Risk as the Legislature will need to enact the Amendment through statutory changes 

X  Public opinion polling is always challenged when tinkering with the Constitution

X  Corporate support not possible, publicly traded companies not prepared to touch Constitution

Path # 6 – Introduce Citizens’ Bill.

  Fewer citizen signatures required, 340,047

  Opportunity for Legislature to adopt over Summer

  Flexibility for the Legislature to reach deal with all parties prior to signatures submitted

  No surprise tinkering with language, a citizens’ bill cannot be touched

  Public opinion polling strongly favors approach

  Strong corporate support as path remains in the legislative channel for good policy making

Path #6 affords the Legislature a meaningful opportunity to negotiate and act prior to signatures being submitted. A citizens’ initiative would amend the state’s current civil rights law - named the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act - and add sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. The original act was passed in 1976 to prohibit discriminatory practices, policies, and customs in the exercise of those rights based upon religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status.

Data Analytics

Non-partisan Michigan pollster Richard Czuba conducted a statewide survey of 600 registered voters that shows 77.5% of likely 2020 Michigan General Election voters support legislation to amend the state’s civil rights law to protect LGBT people (66% strongly support) and 16.5% do not support. By a margin of 77%-17%, voters say they would support a citizen initiative to bypass the legislature and put the issue to a vote of the people. This level of support has been consistent in research for the past six years.



Quick Facts

  1. Committee reported $640K raised in under four weeks; For comparison: Promote the Vote, a successful ballot committee in 2018, reported $81,000; Voters Not Politicians, a successful 2018 effort, reported $574,790 in the same reporting period.
  2. 21 Mayors Announced Support, including Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, and Battle Creek Mayor Mark Behnke, a surrogate to President Trump.
  3. Detroit Chamber Survey Found 80% Support LGBTQ Protections; From The Detroit News: The survey of 600 likely voters from Jan 14-18, 2020, found on prohibiting discrimination in employment or housing for the LGBT community, voters supported extending the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act 77% to 16%.
  4. Michigan Chamber Announced Support for LGBTQ protections; For the first time in Michigan history, the chamber said it now supports amending the civil rights act: “The Chamber believes every employee deserves the right to equal opportunity and equal protection under the law,” said Rich Studley, Chamber President.
  5. The Mining Journal is First Editorial to Support; The predominant newspaper of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, became the first paper to fully endorse the strategy stating: “this issue should have been addressed ages ago.”

Stakeholder Statements

“Business leaders know that to stay competitive we need to support the people we employ, and that means making clear that there is no place for discrimination in the workplace,” said Jerry Norcia, President and Chief Executive Officer, DTE Energy. “Today’s top job creators are looking to grow in states and communities that are welcoming to everyone. If Michigan wants to compete, we must take a clear stand against discrimination in any form. This effort strengthens Michigan business, our economy and our people.”

“Dow has called Michigan home for more than 120 years, and we are proud to bring top talent here from around the world,” said Jim Fitterling, Chief Executive Officer, Dow. “For Michigan to continue to compete and win globally, and for Dow to continue to innovate in the state, we must be able to recruit and retain the best talent. A fully inclusive community for everyone that lives in Michigan is imperative for all of us to continue effectively doing business in our great state.”

“Discrimination runs contrary to our most basic of American values,” said Tim Cook, Chief Executive Officer, Apple. “By protecting every person from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, we can help make sure that every person is measured by their talents and creativity and is treated with the dignity and respect that is due to all.”

“Advancing the fair treatment of all people - regardless of their race, religion, disability, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity - is a key component of retaining and growing a world-class, talented workforce,” said Patti Poppe, President and Chief Executive Officer, Consumers Energy. “To stay competitive in today's economy, we need to be bold in our efforts to make our communities more welcoming to all. And efforts to expand Elliott-Larsen is also the right thing to do for our companies, our customers and Michigan.”

“Few people know that in 1972 East Lansing was the first city in the United States to ban discrimination in hiring on account of homosexuality. Nearly five decades later, it’s time we update our laws to be more inclusive and ensure no person, including the LGBTQ community, should fear losing their job or be denied services or housing because of who they are,” said Andi Owen, President and Chief Executive Officer, Herman Miller. “This proposal gives everyone the same chance to succeed so that Michigan can be a more attractive, vibrant and thriving place to live, work, and raise a family.”

“Our diversity is our strength. When you encourage people to live their purpose, you thrive together,” said Trina Scott, Chief Diversity Officer of Rock Holdings, Inc, parent company of Quicken Loans. “Just as we passionately advocate on behalf of and lift up our LGBTQ team members, we believe that no one across the state should be discriminated against for who they are or who they love. We are proud to support Fair and Equal Michigan in their endeavor to strengthen Elliot-Larsen and our entire state.”

“Detroit is proud to be a welcoming city where discrimination of any kind isn’t tolerated. For that reason, we support the expansion of the Elliott Larsen act,” said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.

“As a city we strive to be nationally recognized as an equitable, welcoming, innovative and collaborative community with opportunity for all.  We have long been proud of our commitment to civil rights protections, which aligns with this vision,” said Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss. “Yet we need to go beyond policies within our City and ensure all Michiganders have these protections, which is why I stand in solidarity with others throughout our state in support of expanding Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.”

 “We’re all told as children about the Golden Rule that says to treat others how you would like to be treated,” said Lansing Mayor Andy Schor. “Citizens in my city and the entire state of Michigan live by that value, and that’s exactly what this proposal would put into law. We all deserve to be treated fairly, no matter who they are or who they love.”

“Political leadership entails protecting the rights of ALL citizens,” said Traverse City Mayor Jim Carruthers. “The Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act serves to preserve these rights, but it must be all inclusive. It’s time we as a state act to protect our citizens and get over prejudices that are unwarranted. All citizens should be protected equally without bias, which is why I am supporting the efforts of Fair and Equal Michigan.”

“Solidarity is for all of us, and that’s why for the last 40 years, the AFL-CIO has supported adding protections for the LGBTQ community to federal law. Just last year, the Michigan AFL-CIO reaffirmed our support for amending state law to include these protections as well,” said Ron Bieber, President of the Michigan AFL-CIO. “We stand against any form of discrimination in the workplace or in the community — no one should be fired or discriminated against because of who they are or who they love. We are dedicated to fighting for a Michigan that’s open and welcoming to all.”

“As the first CEO to offer Congressional testimony on eliminating LGBT workplace discrimination back in 1997, I thought this would be the law of the land by now,” said Raymond Smith, former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Bell Atlantic, now Verizon Communications. “As I said to Congress then and still believe today: No company can afford to waste the talents and contributions of valuable employees as we compete in a global marketplace. It is good business, and it is good citizenship.”

“Throughout Michigan’s history, Michiganders have believed that if you work hard everyone should be given the same right to succeed,” said Mark Bernstein, President and Managing Partner of The Sam Bernstein Law Firm, PLLC, Regent of the University of Michigan, and former Member, Michigan Civil Rights Commission. “This proposal reflects Michigan’s values that every individual, no matter their sexual orientation and gender identity, deserves respect and dignity.”

“At Whirlpool, we are proud to be one of the majority of Fortune 500 companies that have taken steps to enact policies to prohibit discrimination for LGBTQ employees,” said Jeff Noel, Corporate Vice President at Whirlpool Corporation. “We strive to create an internal workplace culture that allows and encourages its personnel to bring their full selves to work. This means an open, supportive, and inclusive environment where it is possible for LGBTQ employees to feel welcomed.”

“Every Michigander should have an equal chance at success, without threat of being fired, harassed, or demoted just because the boss doesn't like that they're gay or transgender,” said Trevor Thomas, Co-Chair and President of Fair and Equal Michigan and Board Chair for Equality Michigan Action, a statewide LGBTQ advocacy group. “After waiting 37 years, this effort gives the legislature eight additional months to pass these basic human rights. If they can’t get the job done, our Constitution affords Michiganders the right to vote to ensure that workers are judged on the job they do, not who they are or who they love.”

“Oftentimes in the LGBTQ community we see harm, violence, murder, and discrimination justified through religious bias, but I believe that God has love, grace and mercy sufficient for us all,” said Jeynce Poindexter, Co-Chair Fair and Equal Michigan; LGBTQ Community Advocate and Activist. “It’s important for all of us to come together, not with our politics but with and for people to move this work forward and finally right this wrong.”

“Michigan has the unique opportunity to change and save lives by expanding the state’s non-discrimination law to prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodation,” said Alanna Maguire, Co-Chair of Fair and Equal Michigan, and President of Fair Michigan, a statewide LGBTQ and women’s advocacy group. “It is my hope and expectation that by banning this kind of discrimination, all Michiganders can lead safer, more productive lives, and our state will be made better for it.”

“Michigan lawmakers have long been asked to protect LGBTQ individuals from job and housing discrimination for decades, ever since the first legislation was introduced in 1983,” said Dr. Mira Jourdan, Co-Chair of Fair and Equal Michigan and a Neuropsychologist. “This proposal would simply add sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression to existing Civil Rights law to make sure LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination, under the law, just like everyone else. It is time to finally right this wrong once and for all.”

Mayors Supporting Fair and Equal Michigan:

Hon. David Anderson, Mayor of Kalamazoo
Hon. Mike Duggan, Mayor of Detroit
Hon. Rosalynn Bliss, Mayor of Grand Rapids
Hon. Melanie Piana Mayor of Ferndale
Hon. Chris Taylor, Mayor of Ann Arbor
Hon. Beth Bashert, Mayor of Ypsilanti
Hon. Derek Dobies, Mayor of Jackson
Hon. Andy Schor, Mayor of Lansing
Hon. Karen Newsham, Mayor of Bay City
Hon. Mark Behnke, Mayor of Battle Creek
Hon. Ruth Beier, Mayor of East Lansing
Hon. Steve Rzeppa, Mayor of Trenton
Hon. Maureen Brosnan, Mayor of Livonia
Hon. Kurt Metzger, Mayor of Pleasant Ridge
Hon. Patricia Randall, Mayor of Portage
Hon. Scott Smith, Mayor of South Haven
Hon. Michael Taylor, Mayor of Sterling Heights
Hon. Ken Siver, Mayor of Southfield
Hon. David Anderson, Mayor Kalamazoo
Hon. Jim Carruthers, Mayor of Traverse City
Hon. Oliver Wolcott, Mayor of Plymouth
Hon. Will Joseph, Mayor of Mount Pleasant