Shortly after the New Jersey legislature passed its marriage equality bill earlier this year, I drafted a letter to Gov. Chris Christie.
Many around the country did the same to urge the Governor to sign the bill into law.
How could I not?
In part, I wrote:
"I am compelled to let you know that denying anyone the right to marry is not a battle that young people are willing to fight. My peers, both Republicans and Democrats, don't view homosexuality as any less than heterosexuality.”
Before I could even put a stamp on the envelope, Gov. Christie vetoed the bill.
The legal recognition of gay marriage is typically seen as the symbolic end destination on the road toward equality for gay Americans. But in our own state, the road ahead for Michigan's LGBT community must first take a detour into assuring basic rights for our residents.
Currently, a Michigan resident can be fired on the spot just for being gay, or even if he or she is just perceived as being gay. And even worse, there is a regressive movement in Michigan to prohibit amending the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act – meaning adding anti-discrimination protections for Michigan's LGBT citizens would become unlawful.
It's time to correct the errors of our past. The Don't Change Yourself, Change the Law campaign is working to ensure that all Michiganders are treated fairly in the workplace by advancing nondiscrimination policies with a coalition of groups including ACLU of Michigan, Affirmations, Equality Michigan, KICK, the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, and the Ruth Ellis Center.
That's why I joined with more than 70 local elected officials to sign on to the LEAD (Local Electeds Against Discrimination) statement, calling for gay and transgender-inclusive non-discrimination protections. The LEAD statement follows the announcement from State Sen. Rebekah Warren that she would introduce legislation to amend the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include protections for gay and transgender people.
This is more than just taking a stand on a social issue. Our state's economic health depends on the ability of Michigan's cities – including my city of Southfield – to be competitive in attracting both job creators and those seeking employment.
I'm optimistic that we're getting closer all the time to closing the chapter in our state and nation's history of sanctioning discrimination against LGBT Americans, but I'll continue to support the work of groups pushing for change and be a vocal advocate for equality until we get there.
How could I not?