Michigan Dept. Of Civil Rights Report: LGBT Discrimination Is Hurting our States Economy

Some highlights of the executive summary:

Over the course of 2012, the MDCR conducted public forums, surveys, and archival research to examine whether the state’s current laws and policies have an economic impact on individuals, businesses, or communities and whether changes would brighten or dim our economic outlook.

While ELCRA prohibits employment, public accommodations, public services, education, and housing discrimination based on race, religion, color, national origin, sex, age, marital status, height, weight, and arrest record, it does not currently prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. This means that employers can fire or refuse to hire people, landlords can deny housing, and business owners can refuse restaurant service based on an individual’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity/expression and those individuals would have no means of legal redress.

The first section also examines the non-discrimination policies of Michigan’s largest employers, in both the private and public sector. It is particularly significant to note that institutions have adopted these inclusive internal policies because they saw doing so as ‘good for business,’ and did not experience any anti-business burden.

Section two provides an overview of the current state of LGBT discrimination. This section shows that there is convergent evidence of significant discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression across a variety of sources and collection methodologies.

The third section outlines the effects that not prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression is having on Michigan citizens, families, communities, and the economy. Many people who identified as heterosexual delivered testimony on behalf of their LGBT children, parents, siblings, and friends.

The Department’s research showed that out-migration is perhaps the most substantial effect of the state’s lack of LGBT inclusive policies. Approximately one-fifth of the testimony the Department heard alluded to people leaving the state for reasons related to discrimination. Professionals and college students, including students who identified as heterosexual, said that they planned to leave the state because they do not feel that Michigan values all of its citizens. Several people used the phrase “compelled to leave” and stated that they would not stay unless the state became a “community for all people.”

The fourth section is a response to some of what was offered in testimonials provided at the public forums. This section is not a comprehensive response to those who oppose LGBT inclusive laws. Neither is this report intended to support or refute anyone’s views about homosexuality. The purpose of this project, this report is to add analytical and anecdotal evidence to the public policy debate about whether Michigan should adopt more inclusive legislation by asking whether the decision has economic implications.

All available evidence shows that discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity/expression, (1) exists and is significant, (2) is protected in other states, but not in Michigan, which (3) has direct negative economic effects on Michigan.

Lastly, at the conclusion of this report, the reader will find recommendations for the future. Although much of what can be done necessarily falls to the legislature, there are a few steps that can be taken by the Commission and the Department that would improve the situation for LGBT persons in Michigan.

1. The Commission should publicly support the expansion of federal, state, and local laws that protect people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression in employment, housing and other real estate, and the full and equal utilization of public accommodations, public service, and educational facilities.

2. In addition to promoting expanded civil rights laws and policies, the Commission should oppose laws and policies that restrict LGBT civil rights.

3. The Commission should direct the MDCR to amend intake forms to reflect an individual’s sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

4. The Department should continue to do outreach and partner with organizations that are already fielding complaints of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

5. Commissioners and Department staff should continue to further their internal understanding of LGBT issues and concerns.

6. The Department and Commission should continue to support and pursue policy changes in the area of non-discrimination.

7. The Department should seek to rectify the discrepancy between voter perception of nondiscrimination protections for LGBT persons and the reality of current local and state nondiscrimination laws.

8. The Commission should advocate that the legislature strike from state policy discriminatory state laws that are superseded by federal laws or have been ruled unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court, such as the law against sodomy and cohabitation.

9. The Department should share with the governor’s policy staff the results of the survey that shows out-migration of professional students due to a lack of statewide LGBT inclusive policies.

10. The Department should make itself available to consult with communities with local non-discrimination ordinances or that are considering local non-discrimination ordinances.

11. The Department should make this report readily available to business owners so that they can better understand and make the business case for anti-discrimination employment protections.


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