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LGBT Groups in Michigan to Examine Houston Vote for Lessons

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(MPRN-Lansing) MichiganLGBT advocates are examining the results of an election in Houston on a local human rights ordinance to glean lessons that can be applied to a similar effort in Michigan. 

There’s a divide on the wisdom of going to the ballot in 2016 with a proposed amendment to the state constitution to add the words “gender,” “gender identity,” and “sexual orientation” to the equal protection clause.

The Houston Human Rights Ordinance was trounced, in part due to a very negative campaign against it. It included ads that said the ordinance would open children and women to attacks by sexual deviants.

Supporters of the ordinance say they were never able to overcome the accusations, even though they were widely debunked.

Richard Czuba is a pollster for Fair Michigan. He says a Michigan ballot question is not destined for the same fate. Czuba says the Fair Michigan amendment is simpler to explain, and easier to sell:

“It’s a constitutional amendment that will extend to gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation, and it will be focused on job discrimination.”

Czuba and other supporters of Fair Michigan say waiting for the Republican-controlled Legislature to adopt an LGBT rights law is a futile exercise.

But some gay rights advocates say a ballot question is risky, and could set back efforts to guarantee protections for LGBT people. They’re afraid that high levels of support among the general public – if the polling is accurate – will erode if there’s a tough-fought and very negative ballot campaign.

“I think it should just be a wake-up call to all of us about the road ahead and how hard it’s going to be, and the steps we’ve got to take to put ourselves in the best position to win,”

says Stephanie White, the executive director of Equality Michigan.

Fair Michigan is still developing its ballot language, which will have to be submitted to elections officials, before the campaign starts to collect petition signatures to put the question on the November 2016 ballot.

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