Mar 22, 2023 - Politics

More work left to protect LGBTQ+ rights after expansion

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer posing in front of state Democrats after signing legislation expanding the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA). Photo: Courtesy of Gov. Whitmer's office

Advocates are pushing for more legislation to protect LGBTQ+ residents after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation last week to prohibit discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation.

Why it matters: The Trevor Project reports that 45% of LGBTQ+ youth in Michigan seriously considered suicide in the past year.

State of play: Organizations like the ACLU are still urging Democrats to pass a number of issues, including:

  • Amending the gender marker change on a birth certificate to no longer require surgery. Attorney General Dana Nessel declared that requirement unconstitutional in 2021.
  • Updating Michigan's family law statutes to recognize same-sex married couples with regards to presumption of parenthood, particularly where artificial reproduction technology is involved.
  • Streamlining the name change statute to make it less cumbersome to obtain a legal name change and eliminate the notice publication requirement, which outs transgender petitioners.

What they're saying: "While we can celebrate tremendous progress, now we're seeing these efforts of retrenchment, the so-called culture wars, trying to ban books, trying to prevent discussion and acknowledgment of LGBTQ people in schools," Jay Kaplan, a staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan's LGBTQ+ Project since its founding in 2001, tells Axios.

  • "And of course, this focus on targeting transgender youth to deny them what has been deemed by experts in the medical field to be depending on the individual, medically necessary treatment."
  • "Certainly the ACLU is a strong advocate of religious freedom, but religious freedom as defined by our Constitution does not give one the ability to use it as a sword to harm others."

The other side: The eight state Republican House members and three state senators who crossed party lines to support SB 4 voted to support legislative amendments to the bills that would have added religious freedom provisions. Democrats, who unanimously rejected those amendments, said on the floor that religious freedoms are already protected under the First Amendment.

  • "They're going to say you now have to hire people or accommodate them for various things in their religious organizations regardless of their beliefs on the matter," David Kallman, a Lansing-based attorney who champions conservative issues, tells Axios.
  • "There's gonna be litigation over this probably for the next 10 years."
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