Senate Democrats are backing yet another attempt to revise state law to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Given the GOP’s control of both legislative chambers in Lansing, and the high degree of partisanship gripping the Legislature, we’re not too optimistic that this long-overdue revision will be enacted. Nevertheless, we beseech the lakes area’s delegation in Lansing — yes, Republicans, too — to set aside partisan differences and nonsensical arguments, and support this necessary addition to the state’s civil rights statute.
State Sen. Rebekah Warren’s (D-Ann Arbor) Senate Bill (SB) 1063 is the latest in a litany of attempts to forbid discrimination or mistreatment due to gender identity and sexual orientation, this time by amending the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act of 1976, which prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
If passed, SB 1063 would prohibit discrimination against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, just as discrimination based on religion; race; color; national origin; age; sex; height and weight; familial status; or marital status is now prohibited.
Gender identity or expression is defined under the bill as “having or being perceived as having a gender-related self-identity or expression whether or not associated with an individual’s assigned sex at birth.” The bill defines sexual orientation as having an orientation for heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality or having a history of such an orientation or being identified with such an orientation.
For their part, the GOP nay-sayers claim they can’t support such a proposal because they don’t believe in creating “protected classes” of citizens. Well, if that’s the case, then they should set out to repeal the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act, which clearly extends protection to various “classes” of citizens based on religion, race, color, age, sex, etc.
Discrimination based on an actual or perceived personal, non-criminal characteristic is wrong, regardless of the characteristic: If it’s wrong to discriminate against some based on their race — and certainly, that’s wrong —it’s just as wrong to discriminate against a person based on their sexual orientation, for example.
While enacting SB 1063 won’t end discrimination related to sexual orientation and gender identity, it would allow those alleging a violation of the act to bring a civil action for appropriate injunctive relief or damages, or both. If one can go to the courts to seek relief from discrimination based on their height, for example, then one surely should be able to ask a court to provide relief from discrimination prompted by one’s sexual orientation and gender identity.