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Whitmer signs the ELCRA expansion, and a package of gun bills passes the state Senate

Governor Whitmer, wearing a blue coat, is flanked by Slotkin in red scarf on the left, and Giffords in a purple coat on the right. She is smiling and clapping. Giffords is cheering with one arm raised.
Carlos Osorio/AP
Former Congresswoman and gun violence survivor Gabrielle Giffords, right, sits next to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, center, and Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., left, during a rally supporting gun reform legislation at the Michigan State Capitol, Wednesday, March 15, 2023, in Lansing. Giffords joined lawmakers and gun violence prevention groups to demand action on gun safety.

The Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act will now extend to LGBTQ Michiganders. The state House could take up the gun bills as soon as next week.

(MPRN) LGBTQ protections are now covered in Michigan’s civil rights law. Efforts to expand the law have languished for decades, but adding sexual orientation and gender identity protections to ELCRA was an early priority of Democrats this year.

Former Republican Representative Mel Larsen is one of the original sponsors of the civil rights law that was adopted in 1976. He said expanding it is “long overdue.”

“The intent of the civil rights act was to cover all citizens in Michigan and that kind of closes the loop today, so pleased," he said.

The new law will allow people to file complaints with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights for discrimination in employment, housing, education and access to public accommodations.

But this may not be the final word. David Kallman is an attorney for conservative causes. He expects the new law will be challenged by faith-based organizations.

“If you’re a Catholic church or you’re a mosque or you’re a synagogue, I think you have a right to choose employees who agree with your particular religious faith and under Elliott-Larsen now, with these new categories, they have put in a process to attempt to attack those rights," he said.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said she’s ready to defend the law in court if necessary.

Proposed gun laws

Bills to require universal background checks for gun sales, mandate safe storage, and implement so-called “red flag” policies passed the Michigan Senate Thursday.

Republican Senator Lana Theis says lawmakers would be better off investing in school security and mental health.

“Our responsibility in this body is to act in a way to protect people while allowing our citizenry to protect themselves," she said.

Democratic Senator Jeremy Moss said the measures would work. He said lawmakers should have passed them after a deadly mass school shooting in Oakland County in 2021.

“You gave them a product designed to lock their door but never a requirement to lock the gun. A failure in policy and priorities," he said.

Democrats say investment in security and other measures is ongoing and will continue during the state’s next budget process.