Todd Heywood reports in the American Independent that Wednesday, is the 40th anniversary of the nation’s first-of-its kind nondiscrimination law that protected people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. On March 7, 1972, the Gay Liberation Movement prompted the East Lansing, Michigan City Council to pass a measure that would prohibit discrimination for city employees on “sex or homosexuality” in a 4 to 1 vote.
(East Lansing City Council)
“Outside of East Lansing and the 17 cities that have passed similar ordinances in Michigan, it’s still legal in our state to fire someone for being gay,” Triplett told The American Independent. “That’s entirely unacceptable. It’s also ironic and tragic that at the very moment we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of our groundbreaking policy, there is a bill pending in the state legislature that would void our human relations ordinance and in effect legalize discrimination against LGBT people in East Lansing.”Mt. Pleasant, Jackson, and Holland are all Michigan municipalities that are moving toward enacting such discrimination protection. In 2009, after the disappointing election season of 2008 for the LGBT community, a hard fought ballot battle to add LGBT discrimination to Kalamazoo, Michigan's books passed by a wide margin (almost two to one) on a ballot referendum.
But we can go backwards. Just as they want to reopen a long-defunct debate on the morality of birth control Republicans in Michigan want to roll back discrimination protections were settled democratically—and locally—even as long as four decades ago. Exactly how out of touch with the 21st century is the GOP? Why do so many vote for them when they clearly have no agenda to address the economic issues that concern Americans, and instead just want to revive the culture war they lost long ago?
I scarcely recognize my home state from the news I read from New York. I have more respect for the electorate than I do for the people they elect. I don't understand what has gone wrong since I left. 2010 was rough, but the march rightward has been steady since I left in 1993.
In an emailed statement to TAI, Emily Dievendorf, policy director for the Equality Michigan, had this to say on the anniversary:Yes, there is currently a bill in the Michigan legislature that will revoke East Lansing's law. This is the new plot by religious conservatives to wipe out protections for LGBT Americans even in progressive pockets of red states.
East Lansing was brave enough to do right by all of its residents by addressing discrimination at the very point of its acknowledgment. Now, forty years later, other cities are still arguing whether it is worth their time to protect their citizens. Cities on the fence should recognize that East Lansing is a thriving success in a struggling economy for a reason. Welcoming communities reflect the kind of big picture thinking that attracts and retains workers and residents committed to each other and, in turn, growth.
We first saw this strategy in Tennessee where conservatives successfully did away with a new law protecting the LGBT citizens of Nashville, by passing and signing HB600 last year. The strategy is carefully crafted to end-run around the Romer v. Evans Supreme Court decision by decreeing only the state governments may define non-discrimination laws, and local ordinances that attempt to do so are stricken invalid. The Tennessee law faced a court challenge, and though the suit is still pending it did face a significant setback in the TN courts in January. The legislative strategy to specifically target LGBTs in oases of conservatives state—like Austin, TX or New Orleans, Louisiana—and it's frankly a pretty good strategy if they have the votes in the state legislature. The opportunity for court remedies under state and federal constitution look sparse.
Still, should the GOP-controlled legislature move forward with passing this bill, the state of Michigan will surely incur the expense of defending this law in the courts against civil libertarians court challenges. This does not seem like an important bill to hand the taxpayers of Michigan, most of whom are surely quite happy and satisfied with the status quo of their local non-discrimination ordinances (and already enjoy the opportunity to change or challenge them if they are not).
I predicted at the time if HB600 was successful we would see copy-cat versions of the bill popping up around the country. And we have, Nebraska is trying this strategy also. This is also underway in Montana, Oklahoma and Kansas as well. Coming to a state near you, the end of local LGBT protections, courtesy of the oppressive tyranny of conservative state big government telling you how to run your town.