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Kalamazoo Vice Mayor, Leader of State LGBTQ Advocacy Group Calls 2019 "Pivotal Year"

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, center, joins with lawmakers and others calling for expanding the state's civil rights law to prohibit discrimination against LGBT people on Tuesday, June 4, 2019, in the Capitol building. By David Eggert, AP
David Eggert
The Associated Press

Equality Michigan Executive Director Erin Knott says “you can get married on Saturday, and fired on Monday for who you love” in Michigan. That’s why Knott, who is also Kalamazoo’s Vice Mayor says it’s critically important to add protections for sexual orientation and gender identity to Michigan’s anti-discrimination law.

Legislation was introduced last week to amend Michigan’s Elliot-Larsen Act to include protections against discrimination for LGBTQ people. Many municipalities, including Kalamazoo and Portage have non-discrimination ordinances. But Knott says if she and her partner “go out to dinner two or three miles from our house we could be potentially denied service because we identify as gay women.”

Knott was named interim Executive Director of Equality Michigan late last year. The interim was dropped from her title last month. She says the LGBTQ advocacy organization works to pass progressive policies at state and local levels. Equality Michigan also helps people who have been victims of discrimination, including harassment or violence. Knott says the organization has launched a new effort to track reports of discrimination in the state.

Extended interview with Erin Knott in WMUK's WestSouthwest podcast

Knott says 2019 is a “pivotal year” for LGBTQ issues. She says having a “pro equality” Governor, Attorney General and Secretary of State has helped make progress on some issues. Knott says she is optimistic that this will be the year that protections against discrimination for sexual orientation and gender identity will be added to state law. Although she says it will require hard work, Knott says there is bipartisan support for the change to the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

The city of Huntington Woods recently became the first in Michigan to pass a ban on conversion therapy. That’s a method for tying to alter the sexual orientation of LGBT people. Knott would like to see Michigan join other states in passing a conversion therapy ban. She also would like Kalamazoo to pass a ban at the city level. Knott says she plans to talk with city manager and city attorney about crafting an ordinance for Kalamazoo.

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