Michigan Governor Issues LGBTQ Non-Discrimination Order First Week on Job

After less than a week on the job, Michigan’s new governor has signed a directive that bars LGBTQ discrimination in state employment and services.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who was sworn in on Jan. 1, said the executive directive is necessary to attract new businesses and a talented workforce.

“By strengthening non-discrimination protections in state government employment, contracting, and services, we will make Michigan a model of equal opportunity and build a more welcoming and inclusive state that works for everyone,” Whitmer said in a statement.

Whitmer signed the order at LGBTQ community center Affirmations in Ferndale while surrounded by community advocates.

The new rules bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in state employment, contracts and services. It requires every state agency to designate an equity and inclusion officer, tasked with educating employees, taking complaints and reporting to the governor’s office.

Equality Michigan Interim Executive Director Erin Knott said the directive represents a big step in a state that lacks nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people.

“Governor Whitmer has gone way further than any prior Michigan Administration in ensuring these protections apply to everyone without a carveout or exemption of any kind,” Knott told INTO.  “This is part of a national trend that is guaranteeing as many LGBT people are protected as possible.”

The state’s new attorney general, Dana Nessel, who is the country’s second out LGBTQ person to hold that position, applauded the directive, noting it was “personal” for her. 

“I am grateful that [Gretchen Whitmer] has made anti-discrimination one of her top priorities in her first days in office,” she tweeted.  “I am hopeful that soon our state laws will also reflect the paradigm of equal protection under the law for all Michiganders.”

LGBTQ advocates and Whitmer concede that the directive is a far cry from the statewide protections needed. Knott hopes the directive will create momentum for amending the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act in the legislature this year.

“Over 40 municipalities have nondiscrimination ordinances on their books,” said Knott. “But that patchwork framework that we have in Michigan does not protect everybody, and we have several communities where there are no protections in place, leaving folks to be vulnerable.”

Image via Getty

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