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Civil rights law author: It’s time to debate adding gay rights

State Bar of Michigan

Michigan’s landmark civil rights law was celebrated today as a legal milestone in a ceremony at the state Capitol that re-united the two main sponsors of the legislation.

State Representative Daisy Elliott was a Democrat from Detroit. State Representative Mel Larsen was a Republican from Oakland County.

The 36-year-old Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act protects against discrimination based on race, religion, gender; national origin, or marital status.

Larsen says he’s pleased with how the law has worked, but he’d like to see a debate in Lansing about adding gay rights to the law.

“I’m not taking a side on it at this point in time," he said. "I’m saying there should be the debate, the fair open debate about whether we should put it in the law or not, and, if not, what should we do to guarantee equal access to gays and lesbians.”

There has been legislation introduced in the Legislature to add sexual orientation to the protections in the civil rights law. There are no hearings planned on the bills.

Larsen says it was a lot of work to build a bipartisan coalition to approve the legislation. He’s not sure the same thing could happen today in the era of legislative term limits.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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