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Governor's directive protects gay, transgender state employees

Michigan's new governor, Gretchen Whitmer, recently signed an executive order that protects lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) state employees from discrimination. It also requires that the same protections extend to employees who work for companies that do business with the state, such as state contractors, or businesses that receive state loans, grants and such.

The order was praised by leaders in the community. Whitmer said the executive order is a step toward the state government being "a model of equality of opportunity."

The interim executive director of Equality Michigan said it is a giant step.

"This directive means executive branch employees won't have to worry about discrimination hurting their ability to support themselves or their family," she said. "Or that conservation officers can't harass same-sex partners camping in our state parks later this summer. Or that M-DOT contractors, when they finally start to fix our roads, can [sic] discriminate against their workers."

Whitmer said the next goal will to change the law to make sure members of the LGBTQ community working in the private sector have the same protections.

"What this does, this executive directive does, is give a level of legitimacy of protections for people of all walks of life in the state of Michigan," Whitmer said. "And that's what this is all about. Elevating, legitimizing, protecting, and moving forward to make sure that we expand it to everyone in the state."

The governor's action, indeed, is designed to help the members of the gay and transgender community who work for the state. But that doesn't mean it will be a foolproof solution. There still could be people working in the government who discriminate, and if that's the case, this action gives employees some teeth to file a complaint with their appropriate agency. An attorney also could help them to fight discrimination when they fear their job is at stake on the basis of gender or sexual orientation.

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