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LGBT Rights Debate To Pit LGB Against T

Nov 12, 2014

A debate is shaping up in the Michigan House on whether Michigan's civil rights law should be expanded to protect gays, lesbians, and bisexuals from discrimination. There's also a fight brewing on whether those protections should extent to transgender people.

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And House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) said he would only support adding "sexual orientation" (but not "gender identity") to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act if the Legislature adopts a law to grant exceptions for many people with religious objections. "Nobody should be discriminated against because of who they are, just as nobody should be forced to violate their faith," Bolger said.

Rep. Frank Foster (R-Petoskey) ended months of anticipation when he submitted the bill to add lesbians, gays, and bisexuals to the civil rights act.  He says - even without mentioning transgender people - expanding the civil rights law would be progress. "Not everyone is perfectly happy, but I think we're still moving an issue forward that's been a long time in the making," said Foster, who said he personally favors adding "gender identity" to the law, even if it's not in his bill. 

Bolger says the addition is superfluous and unnecessary, and would oppose any effort to bring that question to a vote.

Democrats and many LGBT advocates say they'll oppose what they consider a partial solution that would leave transgender people vulnerable to discrimination. "The LGBT community is a community, and we should protect them so there is not any discrimination in employment or housing," said Rep. Sam Singh (D-East Lansing), who has sponsored a bill to add "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to the civil rights law. "Any bill that does not include all those elements is a discriminatory bill."

LGBT advocates say they will work to kill the less-inclusive package and work, instead, to put the question on the statewide ballot in 2016.