Michigan Gay and Transgender Groups: If You Come Out at Work, You Can Be Fired

Coalition launches campaign on National Coming Out Day to update state civil rights act to include all Michiganders


Oct 11, 2011, 09:00 ET from Unity Michigan Coalition

LANSING, Mich.,  Oct. 11, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- In honor of National Coming Out Day, local advocacy groups launched the "Don't Change Yourself. Change the Law" campaign today to raise awareness that in Michigan you can still be fired if your employer even thinks you are gay. The Unity Michigan Coalition, a group of six organizations dedicated to ensuring equality for all Michiganders, announced the campaign to urge the Michigan legislature to update the state's nondiscrimination law, which currently doesn't protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens against discrimination. The campaign message is: DON'T CHANGE YOURSELF. CHANGE THE LAW.

"Don't Change Yourself. Change the Law" calls upon House Speaker Jase Bolger to amend the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act. It was passed in 1976 to protect Michiganders from employment and housing discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion and national origin. The Unity Michigan Coalition urges Speaker Bolger and the Michigan legislature to update this law to also protect gay and transgender people against workplace discrimination.  

"Being fired because you are gay or transgender is an especially bad consequence in an economy with 10.9% unemployment," said Jon Hoadley, Unity Michigan Coalition Director.  "How can this be possible in 2011?"

"In this campaign we will offer tongue-in-cheek tips for dressing, social interaction and mannerisms that are sure to convey a stereotypical Not-Gay appearance at work," said Denise Brogan-Kator, executive director at Equality Michigan. "If you're great at your job, you shouldn't have to change anything about yourself to keep it. What really needs to change is the law."

73 percent of Americans support workplace equality for gay and lesbian employees, and according to a January 2011 Michigan statewide poll conducted by MRG Research, a total of 66 percent of Michiganders favor legislation to protect gay and transgender people from discrimination. "It goes inherently against our American values to fire someone based solely upon who they are or whom they love," said Jay Kaplan, ACLU of Michigan LGBT Project staff attorney. "Across the board, the majority of Americans believe employment decisions should be based on a person's qualifications and work ethic. It's time for our legislature to get in step with the American public."

"I know firsthand what it's like to be fired from your job because of your sexual orientation and regardless of work performance. I was fired from a school district in 2000 solely based on my sexual orientation. In general, but especially in these tough economic times, the recruitment and retention of talent must trump bigotry and homophobia. Everyone should have a fair chance at a good job," said David Garcia, a victim of workplace discrimination. "I'm thankful that the Unity Michigan Coalition is working hard to make sure that this does not happen to anyone else."

Michiganders can join the campaign at DontChangeYourself.com, where they can add their name to the petition to Representative Jase Bolger, hear more stories like Garcia's, and download Not-Gay posters, screensavers and other "Not-Gay " tips so they can be sure to have a Not-Gay appearance at work.

For more information on the campaign and to sign the petition, go to DontChangeYourself.com.

The Unity Michigan Coalition works to ensure that all Michiganders are treated fairly in the workplace by advancing nondiscrimination policies. It includes the ACLU of Michigan, Affirmations, Equality Michigan, KICK, the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, and the Ruth Ellis Center.

SOURCE Unity Michigan Coalition