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LGBT Civil Rights Protections Unlikely This Year

House holds hearing on LGBT civil rights bill

A state House committee adjourned Wednesday without voting on
legislation that would add LGBT protections to Michigan's civil rights
law, and it appears the effort has stalled as the Legislature grows
close to wrapping up for the year.

State Rep. Frank Foster (R-Petoskey) both testified and presided over
the hour-long hearing that allowed supporters and opponents to voice
their opinions. He said it's time for Michigan to update its civil
rights law.

"Check your politics at the door on this one, and do what is right
for the state," he said, noting that his stand on the issue very
likely cost him reelection. He was the only incumbent to lose his
Republican primary last Au

Retired Ford Motor Company executive and former Wayne State University
President Allan Gilmour was one of those who showed up to support
updating the law.

 "If Michigan is to attract and retain talent, and succeed in the
competitive race among states, on an individual basis, no one should
live in fear that they will lose their jobs should they live openly,"
said Gilmour, who is gay.

He says more and more businesses are ensuring their LGBT employees
don't face on-the-job discrimination.

"The climate in this state has not kept up. It is necessary for our
elected officials to exercise leadership and transmit the message that
discrimination will not be tolerated."  

Gilmour says the law should be as expansive as possible to protect
gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people. One version would
protect transgender people as well as people who might simply be
perceived as gay with the phrase "gender identity." Another version
leaves it out.

Minister Stacy Swimp says adding LGBT protections to the civil rights
law would be a license to discriminate against business owners who
oppose gay rights.  

"The Michigan Legislature has a sworn duty to uphold the
constitutionally protected freedoms of every citizen of this state,
including Christian business owners," said Swimp, who also said
comparing the LGBT equality movement to the civil rights movement is an
"insult" to African Americans.

A bill up for a hearing Thursday would carve out exceptions for
people based on their religious faith.

A spokesman for House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) said it's
highly unlikely the LGBT expansion will be voted on before the
Legislature adjourns for the year.

Rick Pluta is the managing editor for the Michigan Public Radio Network.