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Chambers to back state civil rights amendment to bar discrimination based on sexual orientation

Crain’s Detroit Business: May 29, 2014

MACKINAC ISLAND — The state’s two largest chambers were to announce Thursday that they had joined the coalition working to amend state civil rights law to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Michigan Competitive Workforce Coalition supports amending Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include barring discrimination based on those two categories.

The Detroit Regional Chamber, Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, Kellogg Co. and Pfizer Inc. are among those signing on to the initiative launched earlier this month. The coalition now includes major employers, ranging from AT&T and Herman Miller Inc. to Chrysler and Steelcase Inc.

The Michigan chapter of the Americans Civil Liberties Union is a convener of the coalition that included nine founding corporate members: AT&T, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Consumers Energy, Dow Chemical Co., Google, Strategic Staffing Solutions, Herman Miller, Steelcase, Whirlpool Corp., and Holland-based scrap metal and recycler Padnos.

Jim Murray, president of AT&T Michigan, said he hoped the Legislature would address the issue after the August primary.

The Detroit Regional Chamber says the business community is sending a “very clear message” about the need to update the state’s 1976 civil rights act.

Efforts to change the law to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents have failed in the Legislature. Republicans say the religious beliefs of employers must be considered, too.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.