Pasky: Michigan can’t condone discrimination

Cynthia J. Pasky

With a very brief, two paragraph statement last Wednesday, Gov. Rick Snyder displayed the kind of leadership we need in Michigan if we are to continue moving this state forward.

Snyder announced he will not appeal a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith’s recognizing the validity of the marriages of approximately 300 same-sex couples who were married in four counties of Michigan last March 22.

“I appreciate that the larger question will be addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court this year,” Snyder said. “It’s vitally important for an expedient resolution that will allow people in Michigan, as well as other states, to move forward together on the other challenges we face.”

In the meantime, he said, the state of Michigan will abide by the law as it stands today in the wake of Judge Goldsmith’s ruling.

We should all welcome Snyder’s decision. For the time being, at least until the U. S. Supreme Court issues its highly anticipated ruling on the issue, it moves Michigan one small step forward on the path to assuring true equality of opportunity for everyone in this state. It moves this state one small step forward to being a state that focuses on inclusion, not exclusion.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King once observed, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

Clearly, the arc is moving in the direction of inclusion when it comes to extending legal protections in the areas of sexual orientation and gender identity. Same sex marriages are now legal in 36 states.

Some 21 states prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, and 18 states prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.

That is why Strategic Staffing Solutions is a firm partner of the Michigan Competitive Workforce Coalition, which has sought to persuade the Legislature to amend Michigan’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The law passed in 1976. It has since been amended to expand its protections and today also outlaws discrimination based on religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status or marital status. But it does not include protections for sexual orientation or gender identity.

In business, a key factor in achieving success is putting together the best team possible and providing a supportive atmosphere in which team members can go to work and focus on their jobs. If we start putting up barriers that prohibit talented and qualified people from joining our team, based on factors that have nothing to do with their job-related abilities, we only hurt our own efforts.

That is equally true for a state as for an individual business.

Sadly, Michigan is one of 29 states that do not yet extend that protection to individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity. That means if they are denied employment or fired or denied housing because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, they have no recourse. That is not a message we want to send to the rest of the world in the 21st Century.

Just as no business will reach its full potential if it isn’t hiring and promoting people based on who is best for the job, period, no state will reach its full potential if it condones discrimination.

Michigan is moving forward economically after a lost decade. It is important that we do everything we can to encourage that continued recovery. That includes sending a clear message to talented people throughout the world that they are welcome here and that we want their contribution to our continued growth as a state. It means telling them we are focused on their talents and skills, not their personal lives.

Snyder is to be commended for his firm decision not to appeal Judge Goldsmith’s decision. Now it’s time for the Legislature to take the next step to make Michigan a part of the 21st Century.

Cynthia J. Pasky is president and CEO of Strategic Staffing Solutions, Inc.