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EXPAND RIGHTS: Regional Alliance Backs Employment Equality

Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity Additions Urged by Business Groups

July 18, 2014       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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Aaron K. Bowron, Traverse City attorney, writing in the Michigan Bar Journal, calls sexual orientation and gender identity "emerging frontiers" on the civil rights horizon.

Attracting more skilled workers to Michigan is the goal of an initiative that has gained more backing in the region.

Great Lakes Bay area economic development and business leaders today announced their support for updates to Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA).

Adding their voices to the Michigan Competitive Workforce Coalition, which backs the addition of sexual orientation and gender identity protections under Michigan law, are the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance, Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce and Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce.

Aaron K. Bowron, Traverse City attorney, writing in the Michigan Bar Journal, calls sexual orientation and gender identity "emerging frontiers" on the civil rights horizon.

"We want to support efforts to make Michigan the most business friendly state possible," said Dave Dunn, Chairman of the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance.

"The reality is that we are competing against neighboring states in the Midwest that give these equal protections. It's long overdue for Michigan to enact legislation to treat every employee in an equal and fair manner."

The Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance is made up of 48 board members who represent Bay, Isabella, Midland and Saginaw counties, including the Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce.

The Alliance's mission is to encourage, support and celebrate regional collaboration and initiatives that will improve the economic vitality and quality of life in the Great Lakes Bay Region.

The Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce is the leading business membership organization in Genesee County.

Currently, the ELCRA makes it illegal to subject people to differential treatment based on religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status or marital status.

Employers also are prohibited from discriminating in hiring, compensation or the terms, conditions or employment privileges.

Sexual orientation and gender identity are not included under the ELCRA, however, and many Michigan job providers see this as a barrier to attracting new skilled workers to the state's economy.

"It's long past time for Michigan to add these important protections to its civil rights law," said Jim Murray, one of the coalition co-chairs and president of AT&T Michigan. "In fact, many Michiganders aren't aware of the fact that it's not already there. But we need to be perfectly clear that our state's doors are open to the best and brightest talent--no matter what."

Three-fourths of all Michigan residents and most small businesses actively support proposed updates to the ELCRA. The MCWC provides a statewide forum and coordinating policy voice for individuals and organizations eager to advocate for future changes.


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