Freedom Michigan launches unprecedented lame-duck campaign to end discrimination in Michigan

Posted on November 6, 2014

The Michigan Competitive Workforce Coalition, formed by business organizations and nonprofit groups to win legislative approval of inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in Michigan’s landmark Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, today announced expansion of its efforts with the unveiling of the Freedom Michigan campaign and web site.

Freedom Michigan is an unprecedented bipartisan campaign of business, civil rights, religious, community and LGBT leaders with the singular goal of putting a bill on Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk during the final days of the current legislative session that will end legal discrimination against gay and transgender individuals. The campaign will deploy organizers and volunteers to amplify support in key legislative districts across the state for updating the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

Its new web page is www.freedommichigan.org; it also unveiled a robust digital campaign.

“Gov. Snyder opposes discrimination against gay and transgender people, who today can be fired from their job, evicted from housing, or refused service in a restaurant or doctor’s office just because they are gay or transgender.  We are ready to engage in a civil debate on the issue during the coming lame duck legislative session as Synder has called for,” said Josh Linkner, noted Michigan entrepreneur and founding partner of Detroit Venture Partners.

“We would ask legislative leaders to support Gov. Snyder and Michigan residents, the majority of whom, oppose discrimination based on orientation and gender identity by holding an open vote on the floor of the House and Senate on updating the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act,” said Cynthia J. Pasky, president and CEO of Strategic Staffing Solutions and a co-chair of Michigan Competitive Workforce Coalition, a business organization formed to support the legislation.

“Michigan’s economic success is dependent on attracting talent,” says Pasky. “Our business community has to be able to attract the most talented and vibrant individuals who are committed to our continued revitalization and growth.  At Strategic Staffing Solutions we hire based on talent and people’s souls.  It is time that our legislation include protections for these same principles.

Legislation is pending in the state House that would prevent discrimination based on “sexual orientation and gender identity” in Michigan, amending the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act that already prevents discrimination based on religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight and marital status.

During the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference, Gov. Snyder told reporters “I don’t believe in discrimination,” and urged lawmakers to “take (the Elliott-Larsen update) up as an issue sometime this year.”

Polls show a strong majority of state voters believe that it’s time to protect gay and transgender Michiganders from discrimination. In addition, surveys of small business owners show that a strong majority support striking this important balance.

“Our head counts show sufficient votes to pass this measure if legislative leaders will just allow fair up and down votes,” said Linkner. “We know that ending discrimination will make it easier for Michigan businesses around the state to attract talent that is now going to other states that have already passed anti-discrimination laws. As Gov. Snyder and business leaders around the state have said, our state cannot afford to allow any group to be left out of Michigan’s efforts to rebound. We ask that the state’s Legislative leaders, who have helped improve our state’s business climate, take this step too.

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Freedom Michigan is a coalition of business leaders, lawmakers, faith leaders, grassroots activists, members of the LGBT community and concerned residents who have come together across party lines for one goal: To update the landmark Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA) to protect LGBT Michiganders from discrimination..

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