Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter speaks at an Oakland County Parks and Recreation Department grand opening in 2020. Coulter recently backed additional protections of LGBTQ residents in the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter speaks at an Oakland County Parks and Recreation Department grand opening in 2020. Coulter recently backed additional protections of LGBTQ residents in the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Oakland County executive, local legislator back additional LGBTQ protections in Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act

By: Jacob Herbert | C&G Newspapers | Published March 26, 2021

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SOUTHFIELD — The Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act, signed into law in 1976, prohibits discrimination in Michigan on the basis of race, religion, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status and marital status in employment, housing, education and access to public accommodations.

Sen. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, and Rep. Laurie Pohutsky, D-Livonia, are leading the charge and have introduced bills to expand civil rights protections to the LGBTQ community.

Support for the additional legislation ranges from both sides of the aisle and includes Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Joining them in supporting the legislation are Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City; Rep. Tommy Brann, R-Wyoming; and Rep. Tim Sneller, D-Burton.

“Passing this bill to amend the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act would bring Michigan in line with other states to become a model of equality nationwide,” Whitmer said in a statement. “As a country, we have come a long way tackling discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and identity, but we must enshrine critical protections that a majority of Michiganders support in our state’s laws.”

In Oakland County, the additions have gained support from County Executive Dave Coulter, the first openly gay man to be elected to countywide office in Oakland. Coulter noted that the effort to expand the Civil Rights Act has been a decadeslong struggle that deserves action now.

“I’m not sure the average person in Michigan understands that you can be fired for being gay,” Coulter said. “You can be evicted from your housing for being gay. These are basic fundamental rights that I believe should be extended to all people in our state. For those Michiganders who have been polled on this issue, the overwhelming majority believe that these are basic rights that should be extended to everyone.”

A study done at the Williams Institute, a University of California, Los Angeles, Law School think tank, found that LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination policies and workplace atmospheres led to job commitments, better workplace relationships, better health outcomes and increased job satisfaction. Michigan’s own Civil Rights Department issued a report stating that LGBTQ discrimination has a direct negative economic impact on the state.

“As other states enshrine LGBTQ protections and our leaders in Congress work to include them in federal law, we in Michigan are still sitting on the sidelines and sending the wrong signal about our priorities and values to those looking to live or do business here,” Moss said in a statement. “We shouldn’t have to wait any longer. We must display that Michigan is a welcoming state for everyone to safely call home.”

Coulter said he’s encouraged by the fact that the amendment has a potential to be on the ballot, but raised concerns of putting people’s fundamental human rights up for a vote. He also applauded Moss and Pohutsky for taking the lead from a legislative perspective.

“This is the right thing to do both for our LGTBQ residents who deserve these protections but also for the economic wellbeing of Oakland County,” Coulter said. “Our employers have figured it out long before our government has. If you’re going to attract a talented and skilled workforce then it needs to be one that’s inclusive and equal.”

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