With a history of civil liberties stretching back almost a century, the ACLU has got plenty of amazing cases for #TBT. Every Thursday, we'll be sharing updates on cases pulled from our archives of work in Michigan and beyond.

In this week's Detroit News, the Rev. Charles Williams spoke out for changing Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. The effort to include protections for LGBT workers in the anti-discrimination ordinance has had a long history here at the ACLU of Michigan. Let's take a look at a 2012 blog talking about the Act.


Who’s Elliott Larsen? Searching for Equality in Michigan

Feb 21, 2012
Lately, I've been hearing a lot of talk here in Western Michigan about the mysterious Elliott Larsen.

Seems like everyone is meeting, planning, forming opinions, and talking about this “Elliott Larsen” over coffee.  Even my good friend Susan asked me in a hushed voice, "Just who is this Elliott Larsen?"

As it turns out, Elliott Larsen isn’t a person – it is an Act.

Named after its two authors, the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act was passed in 1976 to protect Michiganders against discrimination on the basis of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status.

It has gone through some changes since 1976, but can you see the big, missing group?

The Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act does not protect our state's LGBT community from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

As a lesbian in Michigan, my friend Susan is a sitting duck. Under our current law, Susan can be:

  • legally fired from her job with no legal recourse.
  • denied employment based simply on who she loves.
  • denied a place to live,
  • denied a place to dine.

Almost every place that we take for granted could be denied to Susan simply because she has a loving, happy family life that some legislators don't approve of. It is simply wrong.

The ACLU of Michigan is working to stop this injustice, teaming up with civil rights organizations and everyday Michiganders, as well as partnering with business leaders interested in reforming the law.

Over here in Western Michigan, I feel a very strong undercurrent of excitement and a positive energy. People are coming together to educate and empower themselves—people who sensibly believe that liberty and justice for all means everyone.

By Julia Henshaw, West Michigan Administrative Assistant