Kalamazoo vote prompts Michigan to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes

The passage of the
nondiscrimination ordinance in Kalamazoo sparked the Michigan
House Judiciary Committee to send legislation
to the full House to amend state civil rights laws to include
sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes. Below
is the full article from The Michigan Messenger.

This is a prime example of
the ripple effect of positive change. Change starts in our own
backyards and bubbles up. Local level politics strongly influence
state decisions, and then Congress takes cues from states to pass
federal reform.

Family Equality Council’s
expertise in working with city, state and federal organizations
sparks the momentum of change. Through the organization’s
comprehensive drafting program, Family Equality Council provides
the tools and knowledge necessary to draft and pass legislation to
protect LGBT families at all governing levels.

This piece is cross-posted at
The Michigan Messenger

Todd A. Heywood
November 4, 2009

Citing Kalamazoo Vote, Michigan House
panel sends civil rights law to the floor

LANSING — The Michigan House Judiciary Committee Wednesday voted 9-5
to send legislation to the full House to amend civil rights laws in
the state to include sexual orientation and gender identity as
protected classes.

“With the passage in Kalamazoo last night by overwhelming
majority of voters of a similar law, it is time to move this
bill,” said Judiciary Chairman Mark Meadows, an East Lansing
Democrat. On Tuesday, voters in Kalamazoo approved Ordinance 1856, which protects citizens and
visitors in the city from discrimination on the basis of, among
other things, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Meadows also noted President Obama signed into law the Matthew
Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act late last month, the
first time lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have been
specifically delineated as a protected class under federal law.

The legislation would amend the state’s current civil rights law,
titled the Elliot-Larsen Act, to include sexual orientation and
gender identity.

The bill moved with the votes of eight Democrats on the committee,
and one Republican, Tory Rocca of Sterling Heights. Democrat Bettie
Scott Cook was absent from the vote. The remaining five Republicans
all voted no to move the bill.

Meadows said he us uncertain when — or even if — the
Democratic-led House will vote on the legislation. He conceded that
political calculus, including trying to keep a Democratic majority
in the House after the 2010 election, will play into the decision
whether or not to take up the bill. That means, he said, there are
some Democrats who are in districts where a vote in favor of the
bill “would not be considered helpful for them.”

With the Congress in D.C. moving on similar legislation, called
Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), Meadows said
the move by the Judiciary committee might be more symbolic than
necessary. But he added, “We don’t want Michigan to be the
Mississippi of our time.”