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Michigan Department of Civil Rights releases report on LGBTQ policy and discrimination

January 29, 2013

Last year, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights hosted public hearings across the state in order to gather information about current forms of discrimination that the LGBTQ community was experiencing and to make some recommendations about the current anti-discrimination laws in Michigan.878x316xfront_banner_-_dont_change_0.png.pagespeed.ic.hLMUcDjyS9

We attended and reported on hearings that were held in both Holland and Grand Rapids.

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights released a statement yesterday about the new report, which was based on their research and information gathered from the various public hearings.

The statement read in part:

The Department also did not set out to determine whether it would, or would not, support amending the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA) to include protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. This Department and the Civil Rights Commission have long been on record as supporting this and other public policy changes that would ensure lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals are treated fairly and equally in the public sphere.

It went on to say:

We do not believe that this report mandates particular conclusions must be drawn on the merits of particular legislation; instead we assert that the report conclusively establishes that the economic implications of LGBT inclusion/exclusion are real, they are substantial, they are predictable and they must be a part of any informed policy discussion.

The report itself is 124 pages long and is divided in five major sections. The first section looks at the existing legal framework for federal law, state law, local ordinances and public opinion in Michigan.

Section two provides an assessment of the current state of sexual orientation, gender identity/expression discrimination in Michigan. This section has a great deal of data, as well as documented reporting of discrimination and evidence of discrimination provided at either the public hearings or online. There is plenty of evidence that there is significant discrimination against those who identify as LGBTQ in the form of employer discrimination, housing, public accommodations and education.

The third section outlines the effects that not prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression is having on Michigan citizens, families, communities, and the economy. Many people who identified as heterosexual delivered testimony on behalf of their LGBT children, parents, siblings, and friends. These testimonials provided a reminder that it is not only those who are discriminated against who are

The fourth section is a response to some of what was offered in testimonials provided at the public forums. This section is not a comprehensive response to those who oppose LGBT inclusive laws. Neither is this report intended to support or refute anyone’s views about “homosexuality.” The purpose of this project, this report is to add analytical and anecdotal evidence to the public policy debate about whether Michigan should adopt more inclusive legislation by asking whether the decision has economic implications.

The last section of this report, includes recommendations for the future. The emphasis here is on legislative action, which is far too limiting for what can actually be done and ignores the history of the LGBTQ movement, which has made numerous gains from direct action.

Despite the shortcomings of the report, it does provide further evidence of the level of current anti-LGBTQ discrimination in Michigan, evidence that can inform short-term and long-term strategies for change.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. JVC permalink
    January 30, 2013 6:20 pm

    You mention the “shortcomings of the report.” What are they?

  2. January 30, 2013 6:27 pm

    The shortcomings of the report are in my opinion what was stated in the recommendations. “The emphasis here is on legislative action, which is far too limiting for what can actually be done and ignores the history of the LGBTQ movement, which has made numerous gains from direct action.”

  3. JVC permalink
    January 30, 2013 6:35 pm

    Thanks for clarifying. Was just curious if the report was missing perspectives or had done a poor job in some other way. I’m just skimming through it now. The report recommendations seem to focus on what the Department and Commission actually have the power to do. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think they can change the law. There are more recommendations that focus on some internal steps the MDCR will need to take, like amending their intake forms (Rec 3), further training (rec 5), reaching out to organizations that are fielding a majority of the complaints (rec 4), and dealing with the issue of the knowledge gap about the anti-discrimination law (rec 7).

    Also, since this is a report from a government agency/department, isn’t it up to the groups like ULIE and Holland Is Ready to take the ball and run with it?

  4. January 30, 2013 6:41 pm

    I agree that the MDCR is limited in what it can do, but that doesn’t mean they can’t encourage and support grassroots efforts to make change. I also agree that groups that care about LGBT equality is up to grassroots groups and should not be limited to passing ordinances, but doing concrete work to create equality on the ground and challenge systems of oppression.

  5. JVC permalink
    January 30, 2013 6:46 pm

    I don’t know that the Department can actually push for grassroots efforts to make a change. It might be a little too close to lobbying for their tastes. Also, doesn’t the report’s recommendation about working with civil rights groups that focus on LGBT issues sort of cover your point?

  6. January 30, 2013 6:52 pm

    The MDCR can acknowledge these tactics without overtly endorsing them, considering the history of LGBT organizing. As to your second comment, I don’t think we can assume that this means that civil rights groups will do challenge systems of oppression. There is a big difference from passing ordinances and challenging systems of oppression and it reflects the difference between groups like the Gay Liberation Front and Queers for Economic Justice with groups like the Human Rights Campaign.

  7. JVC permalink
    January 30, 2013 7:00 pm

    I certainly agree that it’s up to grassroots groups to challenge the systems of oppression. Though I think that’s a little outside the scope of the report (based on what I’ve glanced at so far, which, arguably is limited to the first 20 pages and the recommendations).

    Perhaps we need a revival of Queers for Economic Justice here in the Mitten, eh? 😉

  8. January 30, 2013 7:02 pm

    agreed, we certainly need a rival of radial LGBTQ action in Michigan.


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