Whitmer, Moss rally in Ferndale to expand LGBTQ civil rights

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published June 11, 2019

 Whitmer talks to local media members about expanding LGBTQ civil rights after a town hall meeting at Affirmations in Ferndale.

Whitmer talks to local media members about expanding LGBTQ civil rights after a town hall meeting at Affirmations in Ferndale.

Photo by Mike Koury

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FERNDALE — At a town hall meeting on Monday, June 3, in Ferndale, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer reaffirmed her commitment to the LGBTQ community a day before she and other lawmakers announced legislation to expand LGBTQ civil rights in the state.

The town hall, held at Affirmations, featured Whitmer and state Sen. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, discussing a variety of topics, but the main conversation focused on new legislation that would expand the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to protect sexual orientation, gender identity or expression from discrimination under the law.

The bills were introduced in the Michigan House and Senate June 4 and June 5, respectively.

“We need to amend our state constitution to enshrine true civil rights protection in the law for everyone who calls the state home,” Whitmer said during her speech. “For everyone who’s thinking about moving to this state.”

Whitmer recounted a story from the campaign trail last year where a man told her he planned to move to Oregon because his children live there, one of whom is gay and doesn’t want to come back until “his rights are enshrined in law.”

“That is why it’s not just the right thing to do ... but it’s also the smart thing to do, for our state, for our future, for the people who call it home, and for our ability to compete in the world,” she said. “If you don’t buy in that it’s the right thing to do, we’re going to appeal one way or another, and we are going to change the law in Michigan, and we’re going to do it together.

“This is a great state, but the greatest thing about this state are the people who call it home,” Whitmer continued. “Our children, our constituents, our neighbors, our friends, our loved ones — that’s what this is all about, and that’s what Affirmations is all about. That’s what Ferndale is all about, and we’re going to make sure the world knows that’s what Michigan is all about.”

One of the questions asked at the town hall was the likelihood of the Elliott-Larsen amendment passing through the Michigan Legislature.

Moss said they have to introduce legislation that reflects their values, and while he doesn’t know what the path forward will be, lawmakers will need help from citizens to get the word out to legislators.

“We will have a Republican co-sponsor of this legislation, but the reality is that we have very tough conversations to have with the conservative, Republican leadership of both the House and the Senate, and this is where you come in,” he said. “We need you to advocate. We need you to be our lobbyists for the LGBTQ community to talk to our colleagues one by one by one, especially in Republican districts. … The reality is we have to tell our stories in 110 House districts and 38 state Senate districts. … We need you to represent you and talk to your legislators so we can have those conversations.”

As both houses of the Michigan Legislature are controlled by the Republican Party, the bills will need bipartisan approval to reach Whitmer for her signature.

In a talk with media members after the town hall, Whitmer recalled how Republicans had a “tempered” reaction on amending Elliott-Larsen, but that it’s something they’ll have to continue to make the case for to get its approval.

“I am absolutely focused on using every ounce of goodwill that we have to get this done,” she said.

When asked by the Woodward Talk on what will happen if the bills don’t get approved, Whitmer said they will keep trying to get them passed.

“This is an issue that is incredibly important,” she said. “We have to amend our constitution. It requires a significant amount of action to get it done. If the Legislature’s not successful this term, we’ll introduce next term or maybe we’ll go straight to the people, but this is something, one way or another, Michigan’s on the wrong side of history right now, and we got to get on the right side of history and extend real civil rights protections to everyone in the state.”

Andrew Patterson, of Oak Park, attended the town hall to see Moss, who is his state senator. Patterson also has been following the possibility of expanding Elliott-Larsen for some time.

While he thinks it’s going to be a struggle, Patterson said he believes that if they keep pushing, they will be successful.

“I’ve seen the Elliott-Larsen Act come and go and try to be passed, and I think it’s really important that it’s something that they’re focused on at this point in time,” he said. “It makes me proud to have somebody in office that cares about me and my specific issues and policies. It was just great to see representation today.”

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