Legislative Outreach

It’s important to let your elected officials know how you feel on legislation that directly impacts you.

State of Michigan Legislators
Find your senator here.
Find your representative here.

Governor Syder’s Office
Contact the Governor (Michigan.gov)
E-mail Governor Snyder

Michigan Legislature: Schedules
Michigan Senate – Latest Schedule (24 Hours Notice)
Michigan Senate Schedule (2011)
Michigan House of Representatives – Latest Schedule
Michigan House of Representatives Schedule (2011)

Social Media
Citizens for a Fair Michigan (Facebook)
Jim Toy Center (Facebook)

Resources: “Public Employee Domestic Partner Benefit Restriction Act” (HB 4770 and HB 4771)

November 22, 2011: Ann Arbor opposing GOP-backed legislation that would void city’s non-discrimination policy – AnnArbor.com
November 17, 2011: Planting a SEED to stop bullying – PrideSource
November 17, 2011: Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Chamber voices opposition to proposed domestic partner benefits ban – AnnArbor.com
November 14, 2011: Mary Sue Coleman: ‘Families may well leave’ if domestic partner benefits ban passes – AnnArbor.com
November 14, 2011: U-M letter to state senators outlines importance of domestic partner benefits
November 10, 2011: U-M reputation could be damaged by benefits ban – Pride Source
October 31, 2011: Mass exodus? University of Michigan tries to fight domestic partner benefits ban as employees think of looking elsewhere – AnnArbor.com
October 27, 2011: State one step closer to denying benefits to unmarried partners – Pride Source
October 19, 2011: ACLU and Gov. Snyder’s legal counsel’s opinion of HB 4770, HB 4771 – ACLU

Letters, Testimonials

Excerpt of a letter to a local representative:

Remember, all I am asking is that the State of Michigan is a welcoming environment for everybody. Can we really afford to chase people away?

Attracting top talent to Michigan, to Ann Arbor, and to the University of Michigan will require our State to be accepting of all people. We must compete for the best and brightest talent not only from across the nation, but worldwide. In my day job as a real estate broker, I have to sell Ann Arbor, and it’s quality of life, to folks who are so good at what they do that they could choose New York or Chicago, London or Paris. What will make them choose Ann Arbor…? Don’t make that job any harder than it already is!
Mark, I urge you to speak with Governor Snyder about vetoing HB 4770 and 4771 that will relegate Michigan to the backwoods of the Midwest for a generation.

I truly think we all want the same things for Michigan: prosperity, vibrancy, and a promising future. I hope we can work together on these goals. Again, thanks for listening.

Excerpt from “Diversity and High Tech Growth” by Richard Florida and Gary Gates:

Perhaps our most striking finding is that a leading indicator of a metropolitan area’s high-technology success is a large gay population. Frequently cited as a harbinger of redevelopment and gentrification in distressed urban neighborhoods, the presence of gays in a metro area signals a diverse and progressive environment and provides a barometer for a broad spectrum of amenities attractive to adults, especially those without children. To some extent, the gay and lesbian population represents what might be called the “last frontier” of diversity in our society.

Talking Points (by Jay Kaplan, ACLU)

  1. HB 4770 and 4771 are unconstitutional:
    • AG Opinion 7171, March 16, 2005: Attorney General Mike Cox states:

      “The provision of benefits itself does not violate the amendment, but the benefits cannot be given based on the similarity of the union or domestic partnership agreement to a legal marriage. In other words, Const 1963, art 1. §25 does not prevent the City of Kalamazoo, if it elects to do so, from conferring benefits on persons a city employee may wish to designate as a recipient as long as the benefits are not dependent on the existence of a union that is similar to a marriage as defined by Michigan law.”

    • In a May 18, 2011 letter to Senator Richardson and Representative Bolger, Governor Snyder’s legal counsel, Michael Gadola, stated that legislation such as 4770 and 4771 is both unconstitutional and unenforceable. Article 8, Sections 5 and 6 of Michigan’s constitution confer autonomy on state universities, including their ability to establish terms and rates of compensation for its employees. These constitutional provisions grant a university board “general supervision of its institution and control and direction of all expenditures from the institution’s funds.” Courts have long recognized that the legislature may not interfere with the university board’s institutional management and control. Regents of University of Michigan, 395 Mich 52 (1975), nor pass laws and policies that invade the university’s constitutional autonomy. Federated Publications Inc. v Board of Trustees of Michigan State University, 460 Mich 75 (1999).
    • The bills violate Section 22 of Article 7 of Michigan’s constitution, which gives local governments and municipalities the ability to adopt employment policies and practices that relate to their own local concerns, including the decision of whom to provide health insurance coverage. Michigan has been strongly committed to the concept of home rule. As the Michigan Supreme Court held in the case of City of Detroit v Walker, 445 Mich 682, 690 (1994), local governments are empowered to form for themselves a plan of government suited to their unique needs and upon local matters, exercise the treasured right of self-governance.
    • Legislation that is motivated by animus towards both same-sex and unmarried couples is unconstitutional and in violation of the Equal Protection clauses of both the Michigan and Federal Constitution. Romer v Evans, 517 US 620 (1996): Laws or policies motivated by animus towards gay people are unconstitutional and not rationally related to a legitimate governmental purpose.
  2. Bad for the economy and bad for Michigan:
    • 88% of the top 50 Fortune 500 companies extend domestic partner benefits, including health insurance, to the same sex domestic partners of employees.
    • 52% of the top 50 federal contractors extend domestic partner benefits, including health insurance, to the same sex domestic partners of employees.
    • 92% of the top 50 Fortune 500 companies and the top 50 federal government contractors state that, in general, diversity policies and generous benefit packages are good for their business. In addition, the majority (53%) have specifically linked policies prohibiting sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination, and extending domestic partner benefits to their employees, to improving their bottom line.
  3. When companies adopt LGBT related workplace polices, the most frequently mentioned economic benefits include:
    • Recruitment and Retention. Recruiting and retaining the best talent, which in turn makes the company more competitive.
    • Ideas and Innovation. Generating the best ideas and innovations by drawing on a workforce with a wide range of characteristics and experiences.
    • Customer Service. Attracting and better serving a diverse customer base through a diverse workforce.
    • Employee Productivity. Increasing productivity among employees by making them feel valued and comfortable at work.
    • Public Sector Clients. Securing business by responding favorably to specific policy requests or contracting requirements from public sector clients.
    • Employee Relations and Morale. Maintaining positive employee morale and relations by responding favorably to specific policy requests from employees and unions.
  4. Michigan citizens approve of domestic partnership opportunities for same sex couples. Lake, Snell, Perry and Associates poll conducted in 2005 around the marriage amendment prohibiting marriage between same sex couples:
    • 70% of Michigan voters disapprove of the result that would make domestic partnerships and civil unions between same sex couples illegal.
    • 65% of voters disapprove that the initiative would undermine and no longer allow municipalities to provide domestic partnership benefits for unmarried municipal employees.
    • 63% of the voters disapprove that the initiative would make it illegal for universities and community colleges to offer domestic partnership benefits for their employees.

Resources: “A Bill to Amend the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act” (HB 5039)

November 15, 2011: Lobbyist minimized gay issue in fight to overturn anti-bias policy – The Tennessean

Jay Kaplan, Speaking with Between The Lines

I think McMillin’s proposed legislation raises a number of legal issues, particularly the authority under Michigan’s constitution (Article 7) of municipalities to “adopt resolutions and ordinance relating to its municipal concerns,” which clearly includes the right to pass human rights ordinances that provide for anti-discrimination protections that include categories in addition to those in Michigan Civil Rights laws. Michigan courts have long recognized our State as a “home rule” state, where the powers of municipalities are to be “liberally construed.” (Bivens v Grand Rapids, 443 Mich 391 (1993). There is nothing in Michigan’s constitution that says municipalities cannot go further in terms of civil rights protections in their community, and McMillin’s legislation appears to be an unconstitutional power grab against local governments. When you look at the history of the civil rights laws, you find that it was first the local cities and municipalities that adopted civil rights ordinances the prohibited racial discrimination in housing, employment and public acommodations and then this provided momentum for the State legislatures to pass civil rights laws.

With regards to an equal protection challenge, the result of McMillin’s bill would be to prohibit protections for any category that is not already enumerated in our state civil rights law. It is not targeting sexual orientation and gender identity specifically as the Colorado law did in Romer v Evans, but I think it clearly has the same effect of Colorado’s law, prohibiting any protections against LGBT discrimination in both state and local governments and given McMillin’s public policy record, clearly motivated by an animus towards LGBT people. I believe it could be successfully challenged on equal protection grounds as well.

I think what people should be asking is why? Why, in a time when we need to be focusing on turning around Michigan’s economy and creating jobs, is legislation being introduced that would take away the right of cities and localities to adopt policies and practices that could indeed attract the talent and entrepreneurship that is needed to bring new technologies and businesses to our States? Why is the legislature seeking to micromanage local communities to tell them that there is limit to how much “fairness” they can provide to their residents? It does seem hypocritical for the legislative majority to speak of local control and home rule when it comes to anti-bullying policies, then to try to take it away when it comes to civil rights for unprotected groups, like LGBT people.

Resources: “Julea Ward Freedom of Conscience Act” (HB 5040)

In the news:
November 30, 2011: Now in court: Student wants to conduct anti-gay counseling – Los Angeles Times

With regards to HB 5040- I think it’s a bill in search of a problem. First, we have to stop with this premise that Julia Ward was discriminated against by Eastern Michigan University because of her religious beliefs The federal district court clearly found that she was let go from the counseling program because she indicated that she would not and could not comply with a core requirement of the graduate counseling program- to provide non-judgmental counseling services to all people. EMU’s counseling program is accredited by the American Counseling Association, which requires that schools receiving this accreditation have core curriculum value. Ms. Ward is entitled to have whatever religious belief she wants regarding homosexuality and any other issue. When she chooses, however, to voluntary enter into a school program she is subject to the essential course requirements of the program. No doubt accommodations can be made for religious beliefs- ie the inability to work in the clinic on Saturday (because it’s the Sabbath), so appointments need to be scheduled on a different date. You are still able to comply with the core curriculum. However, what Ms. Ward requested was to be permitted to not counsel an entire group of people (gay clients), which clearly does comply with the core curriculum. It’s very dangerous to have the legislature micromanage public universities’ curriculums that not only interfere with the university’s autonomy, but could very well jeopardize their accreditation. It raises constitutional concerns, and once again brings up the question of why? Why when we need our leaders to focus on the problems inherent in Michigan’s economy are they wasting time and tax payers’ money on legislation like this.

Resources: Matt’s Safe Schools Law (SB 137)

In the news:
November 17, 2011: Ann Arbor students attract 50,000-plus to online anti-bullying petition – AnnArbor.com
November 10, 2011: MI House Republicans back away from ‘license to bully’ bill – PrideSource
November 10, 2011: Uproar goes national, Senate’s ‘license to bully’ bill called shameful – PrideSource
November 8, 2011: Whitmer says anti-bullying bill will be changed; students speak out in new video
November 8, 2011: Editorial: Legislature should rein in bullies, not license them
November 7, 2011: BREAKING: Speaker’s office says SB 137 ‘is not what final law will look like’
November 4, 2011: Six things people are saying about Michigan’s anti-bullying bill
November 4, 2011: Why does Michigan’s anti-bullying bill protect religious tormenters? – Time Opinion
November 3, 2011: Michigan Senate OKs anti-bullying bill despite protests – Detroit News

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