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Sterling Employment Law

Michigan auto giants throw weight behind LGBTQ measure

Michigan legislators passed the seminal Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act more than 40 years ago as a supplementary and clarifying measure to federal safeguards against discrimination.

The Michigan law – which has been amended many times since its 1977 enactment – extends protections in the realm of education, housing, employment and public accommodations across a broad front. A recent article spotting Elliot-Larsen and yet another proposed amendment notes its current protected classifications spanning 10 categories.

One of those is “sex,” which many readers of our Sterling Employment Law blogs might reasonably believe encompasses sexual orientation and gender identity.

It does not. Nor does federal law presently, although many commentators believe that the protected “sex” category will soon be materially expanded.

Legions of Michigan residents are pushing hard for that change, with a ballot initiative termed Fair and Equal Michigan currently gaining strong traction and momentum. The measure needs 340,000-plus signatures to come up for legislative consideration. It already has more than half the required endorsements, with increased proponents steadily adding their support.

Ballot organizers/principals were certainly heartened by the recent support lent by predominant Michigan automakers for expanded LGBTQ rights conferred via an expansionary amendment to Elliot Larsen.

Ford Motor Company, General Motors Company and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have all agreed to back the Fair and Equal Michigan campaign. Officials from all three companies endorse an amendment that would reclassify “sex” in a broader way that would embrace “gender, sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.”

Campaign principals, as well as spokespersons for the auto companies, uniformly stress that a more diverse and fundamentally fair society will secure top-level talent for Michigan companies and yield strong economic benefits.

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