Final remarks on the Senate floor prior to a roll call vote on to expand the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include LGBTQ rights in the state’s anti-discrimination protections.
In 1977, Democratic representative Daisy Elliott and Republican representative Mel Larson passed the Civil Rights Act here in Michigan that states, “the opportunity to obtain employment, housing and other real estate, and the full and equal utilization of public accommodations, public service and educational facilities, without discrimination because of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status or marital status is recognized and declared to be a civil right.”
And from the beginning — starting during the first hearing process of this bill in 1973, 50 years ago — there has been a dogged yet unsuccessful effort to add sexual orientation and gender identity and expression among those protected classes.
Unsuccessful until now.
Today I'm running through the tape. But this baton has been passed from generations to generations of LGBTQ activists, from those in Ann Arbor and East Lansing who adopted the first local ordinances protecting individuals in our community in 1972. To organizers of the first Pride march that same year in Detroit. Icons from our community who propelled this movement that got us here, many of whom are no longer with us after fearlessly dedicating their lives to equality:
Jim Dressel, a former Republican state representative from Ottawa County, who first introduced this Bill in 1983, 40 years ago. He died in 1992, still hoping that this day would come.
And in these last decades, real Michiganders suffered from real acts of discrimination. Denied housing and evicted, denied jobs and fired. Denied services and put out of places, for no other reason other than their sexual orientation or gender identity.
They were kicked out of Michigan's economy as workers and consumers. This left them figuratively — and sometimes literally — beaten, battered and bruised for having the audacity to live their lives as they were.
Had it not been for their courage to come forward to bring much-needed attention to these wrongs, we could not have progressed to this moment. This bill is dedicated to them.
I also want to uplift another class of LGBTQ people who have long suffered due to their exclusion in the Civil Rights Act. Those who have long suffered in silence. Those who have avoided at all costs sharing aspects of their personal life with their work colleagues, never talking about partners or interests or hobbies. For fear of how it could impact their economic security. Always painfully mindful of how they act, how they walk, how they talk, how they present themselves, and who they affiliate with.
Just this last week I heard from a former friend of an 80-year-old woman who cut out everyone from her life when she moved into a senior living facility. She said, “I'm no longer a lesbian. I'm just a bridge player.” She didn't want to lose a secure place to live in her remaining years — so she could not be both a lesbian and a bridge player.
Still, today those who don't sit on the same side of the restaurant booth with a loved one or hold hands with them walking down the street because it opens them up to discrimination, with no remedy for justice — this bill liberates them. Our community deserves to thrive.
Eighteen years ago, when I was 18 years old, I didn't know who I was, or what I was going to be. That year Michigan voted for one of the harshest marriage bans in the country.
I thought I had no future. Not just no future here in Michigan. I thought I had no future. What kind of life could I possibly live? Just by existing, my life was unlawful.
I've come a long way to get here. Our community has come a long way to get here. I know many of you have come a long way and opened up your hearts and minds in the last years since this long journey began.
It's time to write the final chapter. You all have an opportunity now to be a part of it. And when this vote comes on the board you will tell generations of people yet to come that they have a future too.
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