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Posted on Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 2:50 p.m.

Rebekah Warren introducing legislation to protect gays against discrimination in Michigan

By Ryan J. Stanton

State Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, will be joined by gay rights activists Thursday to announce legislation to amend Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

Warren is seeking to amend the 1976 state law to include protections for the state's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents.

"It's pretty astounding, but still here in Michigan you can be fired, evicted or refused the right to rent property based on your sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation and there's no legal remedy right now," she said. "And that's something that needs to be fixed."


Rebekah Warren

The Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act doesn't currently prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. Warren wants to make those protected classes.

Thursday's news conference announcing the legislation will take place at 9:30 a.m. in Room 402/403 inside the State Capitol Building in Lansing.

A news release from Warren's office announcing the event said she'll be joined by members of the Unity Michigan Coalition and Professor Peter Hammer, director of the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights at the Wayne State University Law School.

Hammer is an openly gay man who has been working with the ACLU for the past decade fighting for domestic partnership benefits and an end to discrimination against gays.

"Michigan has become the Mississippi of gay and lesbian civil rights issues," Hammer said in an interview on Wednesday. "The state has done one awful thing after another and one way to rectify that is to amend the Michigan Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act right now."

Hammer said discrimination is not only bad for civil rights but also bad for the Michigan economy, as anti-gay laws hinder the state's ability to be competitive in attracting businesses and the talented people who will work for those businesses.

"I'm an out-gay man and I've made every employment decision I've ever made based on the availability of benefits for myself and my partner," he said. "I would not be at Wayne State if they did not have domestic partner benefits. If they took them away, I would have to leave."

The members of the Unity Michigan Coalition include the ACLU of Michigan, Affirmations, Equality Michigan, KICK, the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, and the Ruth Ellis Center. The coalition works to ensure all Michigan residents are treated fairly in the workplace by advancing nondiscrimination policies like the one adopted in Ann Arbor.

Gay rights have been under attack in Michigan ever since the Republicans gained full control of the Legislature and the governor's office last year. Gov. Rick Snyder recently signed into law a ban on domestic partner benefits for public employees, though it's argued the ban doesn't apply to universities — an issue some are waiting to be hashed out in the courts.

Meanwhile, legislation sponsored by state Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, seeks to make null and void any policies or ordinances adopted by local governments or state agencies that include as a protected class any classification not included in the Civil Rights Act. That's seen by some as another attempt to chip away at rights for gays in Michigan.

"With the rise in rhetoric from this capital with how we're going to treat our same-sex coupes … we thought it was a good time to remind folks some of our most successful businesses have nondiscrimination policies," Warren said in an interview on Wednesday.

Warren's legislation to amend the Civil Rights Act and provide protections for gays is an attempt to send a new message about Michigan to the rest of the world.

"If we really want to rebuild Michigan's economy and revitalize our communities, we have to say we don't discriminate period," she said.

Because the state doesn't provide protections for gays, Warren said 16 cities, including Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, have had to pass their own human rights ordinances.

Warren's legislation isn't new. She introduced the same legislation last session in the House. It passed out of the judiciary committee but never received a vote on the House floor.

Warren is coordinating with allies this time to rebrand the message that providing protections for gays isn't just about fairness and equality, but also about economics.

Warren also said she believes Michigan has a "pretty serious housing discrimination problem" with regard to sexual orientation.

"We don't have our arms wide open to everybody," she said.

Jay Kaplan, LGBT legal project staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan, said it's unfortunate that Michigan law, as it stands right now, allows discrimination against the state's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents. He said harmful and discriminatory legislation introduced in Lansing in the last year hasn't helped the state's cause.

"This is an opportunity for the Legislature to do the right thing," Kaplan said of Warren's legislation to amend the Civil Rights Act.

The ACLU has a pending lawsuit against the state of Michigan that seeks to overturn the new ban on domestic partner benefits. The state has filed a motion to dismiss the case and the ACLU has filed a motion asking for preliminary injunction to stop enforcement of the law.

Both sides have until the end of May to respond to each other's motions and then a hearing will be held at the end of June before the judge makes a decision on both motions.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 3:56 a.m.

To clear up some common misunderstandings: This is not a new law, it is an amendment to existing law that has been on the books since 1976. The categories curently included are: religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status. The areas were discrimination is prohibited are employment, housing, education, and public accomodations. The law would include a definition of "sexual orientation" (pedophilia is not a sexual orientation as defined in the law). A person would not have to prove his/her orientation to file a complaint. A person can be discriminated against based on a real or perceived characteristic. An example being a person being a victim of discrimination because they look Jewish even if they are actually Christian, etc. Marriage equality and partner benefits would not be addressed by the amendment to the Civil Rights Act.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 5:21 p.m.

I am baffled by all of the comments here asserting that we're "all Americans" and "all equal", and that a law like this isn't necessary. Have you ever met a gay person?! The idea that they (we) don't face discrimination and don't need a law like this is ridiculous. I'm all for envisioning and working towards an egalitarian society, but we are clearly not there yet. In the meantime, I'd love to be protected against getting fired or evicted because of who I love. THANKS.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 1:29 p.m.

So forcing employers to provide health insurance for domestic partners is good for the economy? I'm against discrimination, but let's keep the discussion honest. This law is not going to effect the economy. Most employers are moving away from paying partner benefits, married or not. The only exception is the government.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 8:05 p.m.

That is not correct. 95% of Fortune 500 businesses are offering Domestic Partner benefits as a business imperative as of 2012. My facts can be verified in the Human Rights Campaign link: Next time, try to be honest or refrain from writing if you don't have the facts at hand.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 4:32 a.m.

Thank you. Thank you for being a decent human being and seeing us as decent human beings who deserve no less or more than anyone else.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 3:38 a.m.

I'm gay and I deserve better! or, I'm gay and I deserve better? I'll point this out, many of the anti discrimination against minmority folk are upset that their cause has been qoute unqoute hijacked by the gay community. I am not taking sides, but the law AT ISSUE WAS PASSED FOR REASONS THAT ARE NOT SUPPORTED BY A MAJORITY OF THE PEOPLE THAT THey are designed to support. Go talj to the pastor of Bthel AME, or the people at he deaf school of Michigan and see if they want to be lumped into this. I'm not saying we need to do something, but the people protected under the Elliot Lrsen act have issues that are not compareble to being gay.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 2:56 a.m.

Only gays need protection against discrimination? How about fat ugly people in the job market. Have you ever seen a fat ugly newscaster, announcer, program host, etc. Give me a break!


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 1:11 p.m.

Doug, discrimination on the basis of weight is illegal in Michigan, but discrimination against people who are gay -- or believed to be gay -- is completely legal. Oh, and I've seen Rush Limbaugh, who appears to meet your criteria, by the way.

Stanley James

Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 3:16 a.m.

I've seen lots of fat ugly people who have many different jobs, and dont get denied employment or get fired becausse of their sexuality.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 2:13 a.m.

Wow ! That's a pretty shiny object Sen Warren ! Can't take my gaze from it ! So shiny !


Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 11:26 p.m.

I disagree with her and do not believe she can pass a bill like this. Why can't we all just be Americans?


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 3:21 p.m.

Ask yourself that Pick? Why don't Republicans treat gay people the same as they do other Americans? Why won't Republicans just let us all be Americans?


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 12:03 p.m.

am i blaming the republicans?? How not? given the 'culture wars" rhetoric that is mother's milk to to all their candidates in the age of limbaugh , beck , palin and the teaparty . that said, there are other smaller constituencies that are blameworthy too..


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 12:46 a.m.

So you are blaming it on the Republicans? This is exactly why we as "Americans" have a problem.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 12:08 a.m.

why can't we all be americans?? a great question for the gay- demonizing extremists who constitute the current majority in the republican party.


Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 11:01 p.m.

Frankly, do we really need another law. In my opinion, it would be absolutely wonderful if folks would just appreciate individuals for who they are, for whatever nationality might be and for the mere fact that they are human beings -- which all of us are. There are just too many laws on record already --

Unusual Suspect

Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 12:59 p.m.

I find hatred of religion just as bad.

Stanley James

Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 3:19 a.m.

I wish it was that way, but it isnt. Virtually every law we have came about because of some outrageous behavior of some group of individuals.. We're finally getting around to baisc protections for gays - perhaps the last unprotected minority in the country. Carole - your right but your too much an opitimist. BTW guess where the hatred of gays comes from Religion. Our own "Taliban lite"

Joe Kidd

Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 10:39 p.m.

"Michigan has become the Mississippi of gay and lesbian civil rights issues," Hammer said in an interview on Wednesday." There is a credibility killer. Warren is pandering to another constituency with legislation like the free tuition for college students bill. She should put it on the ballot and let the majority decide.

Stanley James

Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 3:20 a.m.

Justrr like let the majority in the south have slavery, the kkk and segregation?????


Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 10:22 p.m.

"Sexual orientation" Where does Becky draw the line in her bill? Is it to be limited to homosexuals or can it extend to transgendered persons, pedophiles, foot fetish afficianados or anyone with some sexual proclivity that can be discriminated against? If I run a daycare center and I refuse to hire a known pedophile can I be sued under this proposed legislation? The difference I see in this bill as in other protected persons is that those protected persons have immutable characteristics such as race, sex, national origin etc. that are easily identifiable and not subject to factual dispute. How does one prove his or her sexual orientation in a court of law?


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 2:53 p.m.

WOW...equating pedophila to homosexuality...shows your ignorance


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 10:35 a.m.

roady: every one of your "immutable" characteristics is subject to debate as to their immutability, given the heterogeneous world we live in. our president is a good example of such. ask any anthropologist about this and they'd agree. you just don't like gays and regularly support those who feel likewise,even though they have little in common with each other. .


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 4:39 a.m.

You know straight people can be pedophiles (and most are) and they can also have foot fetishes and all kinds of crazy sexual proclivities!! Isn't that wonderful? We have so much to bond over! We're not so different than you! Oh wait. Let me give you some good ol' ed-u-mucation. Being gay /trans gendered has NOTHING to do with being a pedophile or any sexual proclivities. The same way being straight has NOTHING to do with sex. Sexual orientation does not mean SEX. It just means whom you are attracted to. That's it. It's not scary. It's just human.


Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 9:13 p.m.

Chase nailed it chasing pure and simple...kinda like the east beltway mob....

Stanley James

Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 3:21 a.m.

And what do the repubs do - discrimiante against gays to get votes from their bigot base


Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 8:48 p.m.

I always wondered who was in all of those moving vans leaving the state when Gov. Granholm was in Lansing. Now I know! Thanks for making it so clear! Also, with the alternative lifestyle bunch that has stayed behind, maybe the majority doesn't want this legislation? Maybe the majority doesn't see it as the right thing. Obviously you all do, but the majority voted differently. Welcome to democracy 101!


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 3:38 a.m.

November 2012, the entire Michigan House is up for election. Put the brakes on republican extremism/radicalism and total power in Lansing (Senate, House, And Governor).


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 3:32 a.m.

Welcome to the Federal District Court - where discriminatory bills from the Lansing bigots are currently being litigated.


Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 8:38 p.m.

"Michigan has become the Mississippi of gay and lesbian civil rights issues," Hammer said/ that's kind of a stretch there.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 3:39 a.m.

What - is Cuba, Syria, Iran, or Venezuela a better fit ?


Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 8:23 p.m.

@roadman: you're slipping pal . Your signature ( and rather peeping tomish) biographical "know it all about everyone- ism" omits the names of warren's pets, their species, phyla and genera. try to do better next i'm sure you will.

Chase Ingersoll

Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 8:22 p.m.

So her district (mostly Ann Arbor) already has this local non-discrimination policy, but elsewhere in the state they don't. So, rather than propose anything to address issues like the pending bankruptcies of Detroit, Ypsilanti and the Ypsilanti/Willow Run School Districts, or our national guard troops getting patched up with psychotropic meds and being shipped back to war zones, or perhaps something regarding the black boots on Main Street, loading up boxes from the alternative health care clinics, this is what we get from her? Maybe if she actually addressed some more pressing issues that affect more people, she might have more influence in getting a hearing for this particular bill. Can't Ann Arbor do any better than this Legislatrix Irellevantus? Chase Ingersoll


Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 8:55 p.m.

Interesting take. Seeing as the MI GOP has passed MULTIPLE laws that have nothing to do with your list of top priorities, maybe a note to them is in order too?

Top Cat

Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 8:16 p.m.

The contention that the passage of this legislation will help grow our state's economy is without merit or evidence.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 3:42 p.m.

Ever looked at Detroit? Racsim, hate and bigotry sure helped make it prosper.

Unusual Suspect

Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 10:35 p.m.

Top Cat, you're probably noticing, as I did, that of all the people who clicked "Vote Down," none of them have posted any evidence to refute your statement.

G. Orwell

Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 8:11 p.m.

Do we need to specify groups? Shouldn't all forms of discrimination to any group be illegal? Our Constitution guarantees that "all men are created equal."

Unusual Suspect

Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 1:50 a.m.

You made my point. I was talking about discrimination in general; in the literal sense of the word. You are talking about specific discrimination, such as, as you said, "in regards to one's disposition, race, and religion." So to answer the question in your first post: yes, we do need to specify groups - that is, specify in order to be specific - and now you see why.

G. Orwell

Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 11:54 p.m.

@Unusual Discrimination, in this case and most cases, is in regards to one's disposition, race, and religion. Not skill level. In this country, everyone is equal. That is what is so great about our Constitution. Only if our politicians would honor and follow the Constitution, our country would not be decline like the Roman empire. Incumbents must go.

Unusual Suspect

Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 10:33 p.m.

All forms of discrimination are not wrong. For example, it is perfectly fine to discriminate against those who you think do not have the skills to do the job for which you are hiring.


Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 8:07 p.m.

Thank you Senator Warren for trying to save our great state from becoming the next Mississippi. From the party that said jobs are our number one priority, it's funny how they create laws to drive more people away (thus ruining our economy) than making MI an attractive place to live!


Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 7:52 p.m.

The Federal District Court has yet to rule, but an injunction and/or ruling against the Michigan ban on domestic partner benefits will send a strong message to the republican bigots in Lansing that is it still illegal to discriminate in Michigan and the USA and that other bills like Senator Warren's will eventually pass in State or Federal legislatures (or Courts, if need be). It is no longer possible to discriminate against law abiding citizens, who are equal under the law.


Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 8:16 p.m.

They are certainly not equal under the law. So long as "protected classes" and affirmative action exist, minorities are not equal, they are (in the eyes of the law), weaker, and in need of the protection of the majority. I do not think they are, but that's what these laws tell me.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 7:48 p.m.

"Some of our most successful businesses have nondiscrimination policies," Warren said. True. Bigotry is bad business in addition to being unethical.


Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 7:42 p.m.

This is terrible news, and I'm huge into the LBGT community. Another law that says "These people are different. They have to have special laws protecting them since they are so different from you and I". Why can't we just punish discrimination, PERIOD, and not make some discrimination worse than others. By discriminating in your anti-discrimination laws, you're as much of a bigot as the bigots you profess to hate. It's the same thing as affirmative action, really. Let's fight inequality by making some things more inequal!


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 5:13 p.m.

This is one of the most illogical things I've heard in quite a while. The point is that many other vulnerable populations are already protected against discrimination, and LGBT folks should be protected to the same degree--which is what this law would accomplish. I can't believe we're still hearing the "special rights" argument. EQUAL RIGHTS is what this bill is after.


Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 3:22 p.m.

M you have a valid should be law that no one is discriminated against simply because you are human. We all deserve respect, even if who we are or what we do is not agreed upon. Everyone is different no matter if you are the same race, sexual orientation, gender, etc. This is about acceptance and tolerance just because we are all different. Peace begins with you...not making others be or do what you "think" they should be or do.

average joe

Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 11:21 a.m.

Jaime- Just for clarity, the Bible never instructs that "it's ok to hate..." any person.

Jaime Magiera

Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 9:32 p.m.

Whoops, the top part of my message got truncated: I meant to mention the legislation on benefits and on bullying.

Jaime Magiera

Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 9:30 p.m.

M, the thing to keep in mind is that the current legislation basically says "You can beat people up if you say the Bible told you it's OK to hate the person you're attacking". These measures need to be put in place to make sure protection *is* across the board.

Erik Gable

Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 8:57 p.m.

If it outlaws discrimination "based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression," it's not saying "these people are different" ... because discriminating against a person because he or she is straight would be just as illegal.


Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 7:42 p.m.

This bill is political grandstanding and will never pass the GOP-controlled House and Senate. This bill is a product of the Michigan Senate's most left-leaning member and will do little more than clog the dockets of Michigan courts by those claiming to be gay and discriminated against if it is passed some time in the future - in the unlikely event the Democrats regain control of the House and Senate. Rebekah Warren is the wife of Board of Commissioners Chairman "Pay-up" Conan Smith, who is the son of left-wing ex-Senator Alma Wheeler Smith and the grandson of ultraliberal former Ann Arbor Mayor Al Wheeler. "A heritage cannot be transmitted - it must be conquered." - French author Andre Malraux

Stanley James

Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 3:22 a.m.

you seem to be obsessed with"lefties" Been watching FAUX news lately? the repub super spin machine?

Angry Moderate

Thu, Mar 22, 2012 : 12:52 a.m.

Juries decide whether cases have merit. Not "respected legal journals."


Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 10:13 p.m.

@Angry Moderate: I have been involved in the prosecution and defense of Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act claims for about 20 years in the Michigan court system. A respected legal journal published an article indicating that only about 15% of employment discrimination cases had merit but juries returned plaintiff's verdicts in those cases about 80% of the time. I have seen all kinds of suits brought by minorities, women, and other protected persons under the ELCRA law that have very little evidentiary basis but enough to avoid being dismissed by a court and ths can be decided by a jury. Businesses often pay out on these dubious claims to avoid a potential jackpot verdict - thereby driving up the costs of liability insurance premiums and cutting into corporate profits. Sex harassment in the workplace or in schools is a form of sex discrimination and I have seen a myriad of cases where a worker gets fired and then blames the boss for prior unwanted advances - classic he said/she said scenario - and the company pays out a claim they believe is false due to potential jury verdict exposure. These silly claims cost a mint to defend and hurt our state's business climate.

Angry Moderate

Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 9:52 p.m.

Uh, the law already protects from discrimination on the basis of race and other characteristics. Does that just clog up the courts with people claiming to be black?

Alan Goldsmith

Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 7:53 p.m.

I voted for Warren AND Al Wheeler but Conan Smith is one of the Dems who sat on his hands which helped elect Rick Snyder. You should love him then. Lol.


Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 7:39 p.m.

I second that Kudos! This legislation has to be put in place. A state that truly believes in the diversity of its citizens can not also exclude the rights of someone based on their sexual orientation! Diversity does not come at the exclusion or expense of any particular group or race.

Alan Goldsmith

Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 7:37 p.m.

"Gov. Rick Snyder recently signed into law a ban on domestic partner benefits for public employees, though it's argued the ban doesn't apply to universities — an issue some are waiting to be hashed out in the courts." Perhaps if some local Democrats hasn't been quiet as church mice and not sat on their hands during the last election for Governor, we'd have a person in Lansing who would have vetoed this.

Basic Bob

Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 8:31 p.m.

Or maybe if the party regulars didn't convince themselves people would vote for Bernero just because of the (D) next to his name. That might work in A2, but the rest of the state never heard of him and was not convinced. Local Democrats are not the problem.


Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 7:36 p.m.



Wed, Mar 21, 2012 : 7:25 p.m.

Kudos to Senator Warren!!!!!