Published in Economic Development

Business Leaders for Michigan PAC contributes $100,000 to civil rights expansion campaign

BY Monday, July 20, 2020 02:27pm

The political advocacy arm of Business Leaders for Michigan, a roundtable composed of some of the state’s largest companies, has contributed $100,000 to a ballot initiative to expand Michigan’s civil rights law to include LGBTQ protections.

Business Leaders for Michigan’s political action committee announced the contribution today to Fair and Equal Michigan, which is collecting signatures to potentially put the expansion on ballots in 2022. State lawmakers also could approve the expansion if enough signatures are collected by early October. 

Business Leaders for Michigan President and CEO Doug Rothwell COURTESY PHOTO

The campaign seeks to expand the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act of 1976 to include protections for LGBTQ individuals involving housing, employment and public accommodations.

“A state that allows discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender will never be a Top Ten state,” Business Leaders for Michigan President and CEO Doug Rothwell said in a statement. “Our strategic plan has encouraged action on this issue for years, but words aren’t enough. We are behind other states and nations in codifying these protections into law, and so we’re stepping up with more action.”

Consumers Energy President and CEO Patti Poppe, who is also co-chair of the roundtable’s political action committee, said the state could be doing more to promote acceptance for all residents.

“Anyone who wants to make Michigan their home – to start or continue a career, grow their family, or move to our state simply to enjoy our bountiful natural resources – they need to know they will be welcomed and treated with equality under the law,” Poppe said.

Fair and Equal Michigan says it has collected nearly 200,000 signatures. Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens granted the campaign a signature-gathering extension from May 27 until early October because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The group needs 347,047 valid signatures to put the bill before the state Legislature, which can adopt the amendment or send the question to voters.

Fair and Equal Michigan has maintained support from some of the state’s largest companies, including major automakers, investor-owned utilities, Herman Miller Inc., and Whirlpool Corp.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling that bars workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. However, LGBTQ advocates say expanding Elliott-Larsen is still a priority.

“Business leaders across the state understand that we must do everything we can to make Michigan a welcoming place for top talent, and that includes amending the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to protect LGBTQ people,” Fair and Equal Michigan co-chair Trevor Thomas said in a statement. “Fair and Equal Michigan is proud to have the support of Business Leaders for Michigan in our effort to move our citizen's initiative forward and we are confident that with their support we will be able to work together to ensure every Michigander has an equal chance to succeed.”

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