The Rev. Williams: Make Elliott-Larsen LGBT inclusive
I know a fair amount about religion and discrimination. And I know they shouldn’t mix.
I’m supporting updating Michigan’s landmark Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals – because discrimination is wrong, and religious beliefs shouldn’t foster discrimination.
It’s shocking that in Michigan today, it’s legal to fire someone or refuse housing just because of sexuality or gender identity. Discrimination is unfair. We should be judging people, as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said, on the content of their character.
Too often in today’s world, we see judgment clouded by bigotry. In the past, many of those judgments against people of color were “justified” by some as Biblical in nature. In fact, for generations states had laws against marriage between whites and African-Americans, based largely on religious arguments.
That’s hard for many to remember, but those who do not remember history are destined to repeat it.
Just as it was wrong to use religion to validate discrimination against people of color in the past, we shouldn’t be repeating history by using religious beliefs to block laws that would help prevent further discrimination against the LGBT community.
For many years, African-Americans were discriminated against in housing in Michigan, with restrictive covenants and lending practices. Now that law has been changed, and we need to have the same protections for our LGBT friends.
Similarly, for years African-Americans and other minorities were shunted into the most difficult and unwanted jobs in our state, or were denied opportunities altogether, because of bigotry.
Today, it’s perfectly legal for employers to discriminate against LGBT workers, and that’s just wrong.
By prohibiting job and housing discrimination, we can help level the playing field for any Michiganders able and willing to work hard to take responsibility for their own lives, earn a living, provide for their family and contribute to society.
Many successful businesses, large and small, already have nondiscrimination policies in place.
These companies know firsthand that such policies contribute to, rather than undermine, their success, competitiveness and growth.
These basic rights are aligned with Judeo-Christian values that seek to prevent discrimination, show compassion and allow for all to live as they choose without judgment.
My faith tells me we should follow the golden rule – to treat others as we wish to be treated. And my heart tells me this golden rule shouldn’t be tarnished by those wanting to use their religion to discriminate.
I’m joining with business executives, labor officials, community leaders and others, including the Detroit Chapter of the NAACP, to oppose discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. Michigan should be a land of opportunity and freedom for all.
It’s up to us to surge forward by supporting updates to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.
The Rev. Charles E. Williams II is pastor of Historic King Solomon Baptist Church.
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