Patterson: LGBT proposal is right call for Michigan

Re: Ingrid Jacques’ Jan. 2 column, “LGBT proposal likely to flop”: The column offered a shortsighted look at a statewide ballot proposal to amend Michigan’s Constitution to bar discrimination against any Michigander on the basis of gender, gender identity, sex, or sexual orientation. I believe that assessment falls short on many fronts.

The piece rightly noted that Lansing has repeatedly failed to update our state’s landmark Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act from almost 40 years ago. This is exactly why Michigan has a ballot initiative system — to allow the public a direct voice in state policy when the Legislature fails to act.

Banning discrimination and ensuring fairness is — of course — the right thing do, but it’s also much more than that. Michigan’s leading businesses recognize that equal protections in the workplace are critical in attracting and retaining top talent for generations to come. Equal treatment for all is critical to businesses in Michigan. That’s why so many respected household names like Dow, Ford, GM and the Kellogg Co. scored perfect rankings in the latest Human Rights Campaign’s 2016 Corporate Equality Index.

Oakland County is one of Michigan’s economic powerhouses due to our business-friendly environment. Many of our industries and companies recognize that hiring well-qualified individuals without regard to religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status or marital status is essential to their success and growth. Now is the time to add gender, gender identity, sex and sexual orientation to that equation. Welcoming businesses and communities draw people to work and live here.

I’m a proud conservative, but I’m also a realist. Waiting for the votes on this measure in Lansing would be time wasted — time that individuals and our businesses and communities don’t have. Please stand with me, and Fair Michigan, to get this measure before the voters this election cycle.

The ballot proposal to prevent discrimination and ensure equal protection and fairness deserves our support. It is the right – and smart – thing to do for our communities, our economy and our state. And in 2016, it is well past time to do so.

L. Brooks Patterson

Oakland County executive