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Snyder signals support for gay rights

The Detroit News: May 29, 2014

Mackinac Island — Gov. Rick Snyder is encouraging Michigan lawmakers to consider amending the state’s civil rights law to include protections for gays and lesbians.

The Republican governor weighed in on the issue Thursday morning as the Detroit Regional Chamber and Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce called for lawmakers to make it illegal to discriminate against someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Snyder supports having the Legislature debate amending the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act this year, spokesman Jarrod Agen said Thursday.

House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, welcomed the governor getting involved in the issue.

“I believe discrimination is wrong and we need to protect all people on this question,” Bolger told The Detroit News.

Bolger said he’s still researching how to strike a balance between providing legal protections for gays in the workplace and the liberties of people religiously opposed to homosexuality.

“It’s a difficult balance to strike, but it’s an absolutely necessary balance to find,” Bolger said Thursday.

The Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act makes it illegal to deny someone a job or housing opportunity based on their religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status or marital status.

Major Michigan business groups are pushing for the Republican-controlled Legislature and Snyder to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protections under the law.

“We are in a global war for talent, and need the best and brightest workforce to compete in the 21st century economy, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity,” Detroit Regional Chamber President and CEO Sandy Baruah said Thursday in a statement.

Rick Baker, president and CEO of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, also said gay rights are important for attracting talented workers to Michigan.

“Updating Elliott-Larsen won’t solve this problem on its own, but it sends a message to workers both inside and outside of Michigan that if they are qualified for a job, they will be treated fairly and judged on their merits,” Baker said in a statement.
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