City Commission endorses Civil Rights protections for LGBTQ community

MARQUETTE, Mich. — Article III, Division 4 of the Marquette City Code, contains the non-discrimination ordinance as passed by the City Commission on December 14, 2015. The intent of this ordinance is to ensure that no person be denied the equal protection of the laws; nor shall any person be denied the enjoyment of his or her civil rights or be discriminated against because of their actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, height, weight, marital status, physical or mental disability, family status, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

The Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA)was passed by the State of Michigan in 1976 to prohibit discriminatory practices, policies, and customs in the exercise of those rights based upon religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status.

This act does not include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. Without such protections, someone who is gay, lesbian, transgender, or does not present typically for their sex can encounter legal discrimination.

The Fair and Equal Michigan ballot initiative campaign has been started to amend the ELCRA to define “sex” as gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression. This campaign is seeking public support from Michigan Mayors and has requested the support of Mayor Jenna Smith.

Current Michigan law prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status or marital status.

Twenty-five percent of LGBTQ people reported experiencing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity – half of whom said it negatively impacted their work environment.

Twenty-seven percent of transgender workers reported being fired, not hired or denied a promotion in 2016-2017.

Thanks to the interpretation of Attorney General Dana Nessel, Michigan’s nondiscriminatory laws do include gender and sexual orientation diversity within the word “sex,” but new language added to the act will update the ELCRA to a more legally concrete definition.

It definitively includes “sexual orientation” and “gender identity or expression,” guaranteeing safeguards in housing, public accommodation and employment.

Under the interpretation of former AG Bill Schutte as lobbied by conservatives concerned about freedom of religious expression, past efforts have been rejected. Exclusionary interpretations have taken precedence in Michigan in disputes until the 2018 election of Dana Nessel.

A petition initiative propels permanent inclusion to Michigan’s ballot this November.

Inequity, discrimination and intolerance in any form should never be state sanctioned. Marquette’s official proclamation of support can help propel the effort for the LGBTQIA+ community. We owe it to an already marginalized group to say, ‘You are important. You matter. The law will protect you as much as possible. Your pronouns or who you love should not be obstacles to your success.’

Commission proudly voted in favor of endorsing the ballot initiative.