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Michigan State Sen. McMorrow calls out GOP attacks on LGBTQ+ people

“Christianity has been weaponized by Republicans to make people hate gay and trans kids,” McMorrow told the Blade.

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Screenshot/Twitter McMorrow

LANSING – Michigan State Sen. Mallory McMorrow, accused by a Republican colleague of wanting to “groom and sexualize kindergarteners” because of her advocacy for LGBTQ youth in schools, denounced the allegations in a speech on the Senate floor Tuesday that has since gone viral.

In an exclusive interview Wednesday with The Los Angeles Blade, McMorrow said it is everyone’s responsibility to stand up to these types of attacks, which have been on the rise among Republican lawmakers who have sought to scapegoat vulnerable groups and weaponize hatred for their own political ends.

These tactics, often used to compensate for the GOP’s lack of any real policy solutions to offer voters, have been effective in the past – and there is therefore a moral as well as a political obligation to address them “head-on,” McMorrow said.

“We’ve seen this playbook time and time again,” she said, pointing to former president Donald Trump’s incitement of hatred against Mexican immigrants in his announcement of his candidacy in 2015. And “when I spoke to voters [in Michigan] about their number one concerns, so many people talked about immigration and caravans coming from the southern border” even though the state borders Canada, McMorrow said.

Confronted with allegations by Republicans that they are pedophiles, or that their support of LGBTQ youth is an endorsement of pedophilia, Democrats may be reluctant to engage either because the claims are so outrageous or because they detract from real, substantive policy discussions, McMorrow said. But Democrats must address these attacks, she said, to denounce them and to make clear that they are meant to deflect the conversation away from issues that really impact people’s lives.

Michigan’s Republican Senator Lana Theis leveled the pedophilia charge against McMorrow in a fundraising email that also – based on her support for curricula that addresses America’s record on race – accused McMorrow of wanting to teach schoolchildren that they bore responsibility for slavery.

In her speech before the Michigan Senate, which was viewed more than 8 million times on Twitter and shared by public figures including Hillary Clinton, McMorrow discussed her position as “a straight, white, Christian, married, suburban mom” in denouncing her colleague’s unfounded, bad-faith allegations.

“I know that hate will only win if people like me stand by and let it happen,” she said. “And I want to be very clear right now: Call me whatever you want. I know who I am. I know what faith and service mean, and what it calls for in this moment. We will not let hate win.”

She told the Blade that she hopes other women in her position will use their privilege to speak out against hate and reclaim the mantle of faith that has been coopted by those who seek to marginalize others. “Christianity has been weaponized by Republicans to make people hate gay and trans kids,” McMorrow said. “They’re targeting kids, and that is so beyond the pale.”

McMorrow said she will leave it up to her Senate colleagues to decide if formal action should be taken with respect to Theis – who, she noted, faces a Republican primary challenge and may have resorted to extreme rhetoric for this reason. McMorrow said that while some former GOP officials and staffers have pledged their support for her, none of her colleagues on the other side of the aisle have addressed the issue, not even privately.

Theis, for her part, addressed the matter in a tweet in which she accused McMorrow of capitalizing on the controversy to fundraise.

Despite the certainty of a veto from Michigan’s Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer, the state’s overwhelmingly Republican legislature has introduced several bills targeting trans youth, including measures to ban their participation in sports, McMorrow said.

Republican legislatures across the country are considering or have passed anti-LGBTQ legislation aimed at young people in public schools, with controversies erupting in recent months over Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which prohibits any discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in certain grade levels, potentially criminalizing a teacher’s mention of her same-sex partner. Texas’s pursuit of “child abuse” charges against parents and providers who allow trans youth to access gender-affirming health care also made headlines earlier this year.

Just as McMorrow experienced, proponents of these bills, and Republican lawmakers more broadly, have sometimes resorted to the shameful tactic of slandering their opponents – Democrats, LGBTQ people and their allies – as pedophiles or enablers of child abuse.

Governor Ron DeSantis’s spokesperson tweeted in March that opponents of the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill are “groomers” or people who “don’t denounce the grooming of 4-8 year old children.”

The charge echoes Anita Bryant’s “Save the Children” campaign in the 1970s, through which she argued against protections for gay men and lesbians on the grounds that they sought to recruit and abuse children. More recent roots can be found in the rise of the right-wing QAnon conspiracy theory, which inspired a gunman to fire shots in a DC pizzeria in 2016, convinced that Democrats were abusing kids in its basement. Last month, during her confirmation hearings, Republican Senators accused Biden’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, of being soft on child abuse – despite her objectively mainstream sentencing record.

Following her viral speech on the Michigan Senate floor, state Sen. Mallory McMorrow says our obligation to speak up against hate is moral as well as political

There is a very real risk that unfounded allegations and conspiracy theories concerning pedophilia and child abuse can inspire real violence, McMorrow said, adding that she has received concerned messages from friends who feared she might be targeted over the attacks in Theis’s fundraising email. “It’s a very real threat,” she said.

While it was painful to read that email and unsettling to think about what its allegations could inspire, McMorrow emphasized that the pain with which marginalized people, her LGBTQ friends and colleagues – and LGBTQ youth, in particular – must live, every day, is far greater. 

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Michigan

LGBTQ+ affirming school mural sets parents off: “It’s Satanic”

The student creator of the mural maintains the artwork is intended to be inclusive. “I put my art up there to make people feel welcome”

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Los Angeles Blade graphic: From website of Grant Middle School, Grant, Michigan

GRANT, Mi. – Some parents of teenagers in this Western Michigan small town about an hour North of Grand Rapids are extremely angry over an LGBTQ+ affirming mural painted on the wall at the Child and Adolescent Health Center at Grant Middle School.

During a school board meeting last week the anger spilled over into heated arguments with some in the audience saying the transgender flag, a video game character and other symbols painted in the mural were ‘Satanic.’ Prior to the board meeting social media threads on posts critical of the mural had become the mainstay of community discussions around Grant.

The student artist from Grant High School, Evelyn Gonzales, who was responsible for creating the mural maintains the artwork is intended to be inclusive. “I put my art up there to make people feel welcome,” she told WZZM 13, the ABC News affiliate in Grand Rapids.

Gonzales, high school sophomore who won a design competition, created the mural with a bright green background characters including one wearing a blue T-shirt with the colors of the transgender flag. Another student is outfitted in shorts overalls with a rainbow-striped T-shirt that many parents have complained represent the colors of the LGBTQ+ pride flag.

Two other characters are in clothing with colors of the bisexual flag — pink on the top, royal blue on the bottom and an overlapping purple stripe in the middle.

The mural on the wall of the Child and Adolescent Health Center at Grant Middle School.
Graphic courtesy of the Child and Adolescent Health Center

Gonzales added multiple smaller line drawings, including a mask, which some parents have complained is Satan, and a hamsa hand, which is considered a symbol for the hand of God in many cultures.

The mask and hand are both design elements that were not included in the artist’s original contest submission.

During the school board meeting Gonzales defended inclusion of the mask which she told the audience comes from a video game and another symbol she noted is a Hispanic sign of protection. Visibly upset she told the audience and the board “That’s not what I’m a part of- that’s not what I’m trying to put out there.”

According to journalist Jordan Gerblick writing for online video and PC/console gaming magazine ‘gamesradar+’ the mask is from the popular Genshin Impact game. The mask drawn by Gonzales is inspired by Genshin Impact character of Xiao, whose character is notably an immortal defender hired by one of the world’s seven supreme gods to kill demons, so the whole Satan allegation definitely doesn’t track, Gerblick pointed out.

Gonzales explaining her thinking and creative process did little to calm the enraged parents WZZM 13 reported as after she made her remarks and fled in tears one stood up and angrily said “I feel like she did a really good job finding excuses to defend the things she put on,” said Katelyn Thompson. “None of us are that stupid.”

As for the transgender flag, one parent implied it’s a sickness.

“When adults pretend things that are like real life, it’s a mental illness,” says Danielle Beight. “We need counselors, we need medication that’s going to help bipolar disorder, fix their brains.”

With another saying it is discriminatory against Christian beliefs.

“We and our administration should embrace that and get all of this hate material out of our schools, because it is hate material,” says Nate Thompson.

While some parents called for the mural to be removed or altered, WZZM reported that Grant Public Schools handbook includes a nondiscriminatory policy, saying in part, “any form of discrimination or harassment can be devastating to an individuals academic progress, social relationship and/or personal sense of self-worth.”

No decision was made on the future of the mural at Monday’s meeting.

After accusations of a decision being made in a closed door board executive decision after the public meeting, Grant Public Schools Superintendent Brett Zuver released a statement Wednesday:

At Grant Public Schools, our daily charge is to foster a safe, welcoming learning environment where all students can succeed. We are committed to creating a culture of civility, respect, understanding and inclusion as we provide all our students a well-rounded and academically challenging learning experience.

Recently, one of our students painted a mural in the Child and Adolescent Health Center located in the back of Grant Middle School. This student won a contest to brighten up the building and received approval to paint the proposed mural depicting smiling children and the message “Stay Healthy.”

The completed mural includes some features that were not part of the original submission, and at this week’s Board of Education meeting, many community members raised concerns about the mural. This matter was not on the board agenda. What to do moving forward does not require a board vote, no vote was taken, and no final decision was made at that time. 

We understand and recognize there are different opinions regarding the mural. We feel it is of the utmost importance to continue in a thoughtful, respectful, and deliberate manor. At this point, all parties involved are working together and advancing forward to come to a positive, and agreeable, resolution.

We encourage members of our school community who engage in discussions and debate to do so in a respectful, civil manner. We do not condone, and we will not tolerate discrimination, harassment or bullying whether in word, deed or on social media.

Great things are happening at Grant Public Schools. Let’s work together to remain focused on our mission of preparing all our students to succeed.

WZZM: No final decision was made on the future of controversial mural:

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Michigan

Trans teen parents could face jail: HB6454 introduced in Michigan

The bill provides severe penalties for parents who procure gender transition surgeries or irreversible hormonal procedures for their children

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Michigan State Capitol Building (Photo Credit: State of Michigan)

LANSING – A bill that would criminalize decisions by the parents of transgender teens to allow their progeny gender affirming care was introduced in the Michigan House Tuesday on National Coming Out day by Republican Rep. Ryan Berman.

The bill provides for severe penalties for parents or guardians who procure gender transition surgeries or irreversible hormonal procedures for children under 18.

The measure also defines obtaining gender affirming care for a trans teen as child abuse in the first degree. It proposes lifetime imprisonment for parents of trans youth and also mandates medical detransition for trans teens.

The law also names gender transition procedure, which includes puberty blockers and HRT as being covered in the definition for criminalizing medical transitions for trans youth.

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Michigan

School board candidate uses Pride flag as a hated Nazi symbol

“Like my new Pride flag?” candidate Craig Ladyman captioned the now-deleted post on Trump’s Truth Social platform

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

ROCKFORD, Mi. – A candidate for a seat on the Rockford, Michigan school board in this town of approximately 6,000, located ten miles north of Grand Rapids, went onto far-right social media platform Truth Social founded by former President Trump and shared a graphic collage of the Progress Pride flag converted into a Nazi-style swastika.

“Like my new Pride flag?” candidate Craig Ladyman captioned the now-deleted post.

Ladyman has a long and documented social media history of denigrating the LGBTQ+ community. In one post he depicted himself carrying an assault style rifle with the caption; ” I like exercising my Liberty like a drag queen exercises their sexuality.”

Ladyman, who has a business executive profile on LinkedIn as an account executive for ArjoHuntleigh, a global medical technology company, lists himself as an ‘America First’ adherent and opposed emergency measures taken by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, shown in a social media post open carrying an assault-style rifle standing with anti-Whitmer protestors in May of 2020.

In another recent post Ladyman referred to LGBTQ equality rights and community history as “grooming:”

WXMI-TV FOX 17 in Grand Rapids noted that the Nazi Progress Pride Flag image was sharply criticized by members of the Jewish community, LGBTQ people, as well as local leaders, including Rockford Public Schools Superintendent Steven Matthews, who said that the image made him feel “angry.”

“It’s a symbol that I don’t think represents who we are as a community and anybody who would use it I don’t think represents who we are as a community,” Matthews told Fox 17.

Ladyman, whose political ad states that he “will never go along with unconstitutional mandates, medical tyranny or the woke agenda,” didn’t back down when asked to comment on the backlash.

“While I was hoping the outrage would encourage people to do their research into this flag, I would like to state for the record that this image was not created by me,” he said in a written statement to WXMI-TV, after declining to appear on an on-camera interview.

Ladyman — a self-described “pro-God, pro-country and pro-Constitution school board candidate [who] will continue to fight for excellent education in schools without this sexual indoctrination” — credited the image to the British actor and far-right activist Laurence Fox, who first tweeted the altered flag in June 2022.

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Michigan library defunded after refusing to censor LGBTQ books

A community voted to close its library rather than have it remain open with books some consider to be “indoctrinating” children

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The Patmos Library, built in 1999, faces the prospect of closure after residents rejected an operating millage Tuesday that provides the lion’s share of funding for the institution. (Bridge photo by Ron French)

By Ron French | JAMESTOWN TOWNSHIP, Mi. – What started as a fight over an LGBTQ-themed graphic novel may end with the closure of a west Michigan public library.

Voters in Jamestown Township, a politically conservative community in Ottawa County, rejected renewal Tuesday of a millage that would support the Patmos Library. That vote guts the library’s operating budget in 2023 — 84 percent of the library’s $245,000 budget comes from property taxes collected through a millage.

Without a millage, the library is likely to run out of money sometime late next year, said Larry Walton, library board president.

“I wasn’t expecting anything like this,” Walton told Bridge Michigan Tuesday. “The library is the center of the community. For individuals to be short sighted to close that down over opposing LGBTQ is very disappointing.”

There have been protests at other Michigan public libraries and at school board meetings about books with LGBTQ themes. But Tuesday may be the first time a community voted, in effect, to close its library rather than have it remain open with books some consider to be “indoctrinating” children.

Continue reading at Bridge Michigan: (LINK)

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Ryan Wieber, President of the Michigan Library Association, released a statement Friday regarding the situation at Patmos Library:

The Michigan Library Association stands in solidarity with the Patmos Library Board of Trustees on the decision to retain a small collection of LGBTQIA+ materials on their library shelves. We are equally disheartened to learn that continued funding for the library was defeated on the August primary ballot because the library would not remove these materials. 

We recognize that individuals have the right and responsibility to make decisions about what materials are suitable for themselves and their own families. We also stand united with the majority of the Patmos Library Board, and with librarians across the nation in upholding our Constitutional protections. The freedom to read is guaranteed by the Constitution. No one has the right to make rules restricting what other people read or to make decisions for other families. Freedom only exists when individuals can make their own choices. When a book is banned by those who want to censor voices they don’t agree with, our democracy itself is threatened.

Of utmost importance to any public library is curating collections that allow every citizen, young and old alike, to see themselves in the books and resources their library provides, and choosing a broad range of subject matter that reflects diverse experiences. It is important to emphasize that the presence of any reading materials in a library collection does not imply endorsement of the ideas expressed in those materials. The library is simply doing its job to provide a wide variety of views and expressions—if the library “endorses” anything, it is citizens’ right to access a broad selection of age-appropriate materials. This is a core tenant of librarianship – to provide for the interests of all, and to do so without bias.

Of the 50 library millages across Michigan that were on the August primary ballot, five were voted down, but only one was voted down due to extremist rhetoric and opposition concerning the small collection of materials with LGBTQIA+ themes on the shelves of the Patmos Library

And we all know that there are extreme consequences to be addressed for those that voted “NO”.

How will the community fare, when and if, the library closes its doors because its funding was not approved? Economically? Socially? Educationally? The Patmos Library serves many purposes – simultaneously a community center, voting precinct, history center, a place to read, gather, socialize, study and learn – a beautiful cultural institution in the heart of Hudsonville. The day will come when there is no access to WiFi. No access to employment assistance. No access to books, materials and eContent. No access to veteran’s benefits. No access to storytime. No access to afterschool, weekend and evening programs. No access to lifelong learning opportunities. NO ACCESS at all because the Patmos Library will shut and lock their doors and will no longer serve the needs of anyone, including those that voted no.

It is the responsibility of libraries throughout Michigan and our Nation to guarantee and facilitate access to all expressions of knowledge and intellectual activity, including those that some individuals in our society may consider to be unconventional, unpopular, or unacceptable. We stand with you as you uphold the first amendment rights that are enshrined in the Constitution by serving the entire population, including those who see value in material that others may find objectionable.

The Michigan Library Association will help Patmos Library in any way they deem needed to address this challenge.

There is a GoFundMe campaign established by local Jamestown resident, Jesse Dillman, who is raising funds to sustain library operations. As of Friday, August 5, 2022 the campaign had raised $12,571 of its $245,000 goal.

The link to the GoFundMe is here: (LINK)

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The preceding excerpt was previously published by Bridge Michigan and is republished by permission. Photograph of Patmos Library sign by Ron French for Bridge Michigan republished by permission.

Bridge Michigan is a non-profit supported by readers like you. Membership at Bridge isn’t like a traditional newspaper subscription. It’s a community.

Every gift makes a difference, but monthly or annual recurring donations build long-term sustainability, helping us grow and prepare for the future. Join Bridge today with a credit card or, if you prefer, through PayPal. Thank you!

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Michigan

Michigan Court of Appeals overturns decision regarding abortion law

The appeals court ruling paves the way for county prosecutors to file criminal charges against abortion providers under the 1931 state law

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Michigan Supreme Court & Courts of Appeals building (Photo Credit: State of Michigan/Michigan Courts)

LANSING – In a ruling issued Monday, the Michigan Court of Appeals overturned a lower court decision regarding the state’s dormant 1931 state law that criminalizes medical providers performing abortion procedures.

According to Michigan Public Radio, the appeals court ruling paves the way for county prosecutors to file criminal charges against abortion providers under the 1931 state law. That law would ban all abortions in Michigan except to save the life of a pregnant person. But the decision does not take effect for 21 days, to allow time for parties to file an appeal.

Planned Parenthood of Michigan responded to today’s ruling in a statement:

“The injunction barring enforcement of Michigan’s 1931 criminal abortion ban remains in effect and applies to all Michigan county prosecutors. Under Michigan court rule MCR 7.215(F)(1)(a), “the Court of Appeals judgment is effective after the expiration of the time for filing an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, or, if such an application is filed, after the disposition of the case by the Supreme Court.”  This means that the Michigan Court of Appeals ruling cannot take effect during the 21 day appeal window. Planned Parenthood of Michigan will continue to evaluate our legal options and remains committed to protecting abortion access in Michigan. Planned Parenthood of Michigan will continue to provide abortion services in accordance with the law. PPMI patients can keep their appointments and our doors remain open.”

The Detroit Free-Press reported that the ruling means the 1931 law banning all abortions except those done to protect the life of a pregnant person essentially takes effect immediately, said David Kallman, an attorney for Great Lakes Justice Center, a conservative organization representing several Michigan prosecutors who challenged the injunction.

“We’re ecstatic. It’s wonderful. That’s exactly what we’ve been saying all along,” Kallman said Monday morning in a phone interview.

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Michigan’s high court rules existing law bans anti-LGBTQ discrimination

The lawsuit came in the wake of the companies’ refusal to serve transgender customers and those in same-sex relationships

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Michigan Supreme Court (Photo Credit: State of Michigan/Michigan Courts)

LANSING – In a 5-2 decision on Thursday, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in Rouch World, LLC v Department of Civil Rights that the state’s 1976 Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The case, brought by the Michigan companies Rouch World and Uprooted Electrolysis, sought to challenge the state’s Civil Rights Commission for its interpretation of the law that classified sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes. The lawsuit came in the wake of the companies’ refusal to serve transgender customers and those in same-sex relationships, prompting customer complaints that resulted in Civil Rights Commission investigations.

Given the arguments of the case, the Court was asked to determine whether the law’s inclusion of the word “sex” as a protected category applied to instances of discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community.

Republican Justice Elizabeth Clement joined Democratic justices Richard Bernstein, Megan Cavanagh and Elizabeth Welch – as well as Democratic Chief Justice Bridget McCormack – in the majority opinion.

“Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation necessarily constitutes discrimination because of sex,” Clement wrote in the Court’s majority opinion. “Accordingly, the denial of ‘the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of a place of public accommodation or public service’ on the basis of sexual orientation constitutes discrimination ‘because of…sex’ and, therefore, constitutes a violation of the [Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act] under MCL 37.2302(a).”

In his dissent alongside fellow Republican Justice David Viviano, Brian Zahra asserted his belief that the Court had overreached in its ruling.

“This Court’s function is to interpret and apply the laws that the Legislature writes,” Justice Zahra wrote. “That is not what the majority opinion has done.”

While the ruling was not at odds with his own views on the matter, Zahra wrote, the Court’s mandate was not observed by its majority in the case.

“Though I take no issue with today’s outcome, because I do not recognize the manner in which it has been achieved by the majority opinion to be faithful to the judicial role, I dissent,” Zahra wrote.

Similar arguments of overreach were made by the plaintiffs in the case who argued that the state legislature, not the Civil Rights Commission, held sole power to expand the law.

“The Legislature has declined to add ‘sexual orientation’ numerous times over the nearly 50 years since the [Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act] was enacted by the Legislature,” the plaintiff companies wrote in their case brief last November. “Further, the Legislature explicitly rejected adding ‘sexual orientation’ to the [Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act]. The unelected [Michigan Civil Rights Commission] is not the Legislature and is not politically accountable to the people.”

Previous, bipartisan efforts have been made by state lawmakers to codify sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes under the law. Such efforts, however, have failed to gain requisite traction in the state’s Republican-controlled legislature.

In writing the majority opinion, Justice Cavanagh rejected such narratives as pertinent to the duty of the Court.

“Should the Legislature disapprove of an application of a statute’s enacted language, the Legislature remains free to amend the statute,” Cavanagh wrote. “This Court, however, is bound by the language that the Legislature has enacted, not what the parties or amici believe the Legislature should have enacted or what any individual representative believed was enacted.”

Following its announcement Thursday afternoon, LGBTQ advocates in the state heralded the decision as a victory for equality in the state.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, who had argued the case before the Court in conjunction with entities including the American Civil Liberties Union, released a statement following the ruling.

“Now, more than ever, it is critical that those of us elected to public office work to preserve and protect the rights of all residents,” Nessel said. “Today’s ruling confirms what we have long known – that the protections afforded by the [Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act] cover all Michiganders.”

The decision garnered similar praise from other top state officials, including Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist.

“As a mom, a governor, and proud ally of the community, I am so grateful for this ruling,” Whitmer said in a statement. “It will save lives, protect families, and help ensure that every Michigander is treated with dignity and respect by law.”

With the Court’s expansion of the law’s protections, members of Michigan’s LGBTQ community are now shielded from discrimination in all areas outlined in the law’s language.

Such includes protection in sectors including employment, housing, education and public accommodations.

“For too long, LGBTQ+ Michiganders had been left out of our state’s civil rights protections,” Whitmer said. “No longer. Because of this ruling, nobody can legally be fired from their job or evicted from their home because of who they love.”

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