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Coverage from across Michigan and the state Capitol with the Michigan Public Radio Network and Interlochen Public Radio.

LGBT rights ballot campaign hopes to start signature gathering

Lindsey Smith, Michigan Radio

A campaign to add LGBT and gender protections to the Michigan Constitution plans to start gathering signatures in January if a state elections board gives it the go-ahead.

The Board of State Canvassers is being asked to approve the petition form to be circulated by the Fair Michigan ballot campaign. It would add protections against LGBT and gender discrimination to the equal protection clause of the Michigan Constitution. It currently offers anti-discrimination protections based on religion, race, color, or national origin.

The Fair Michigan campaign needs to gather a minimum of 315,354 signatures of registered voters to put the question on the 2016 ballot. Amendments to the state constitution must be approved by voters.

Sara Wurfel of Fair Michigan says a ballot measure would also bypass a Legislature that has refused to expand Michigan’s civil rights law to include LGBT protections.

“We can amend the constitution and discrimination of any kind is outlawed, and everyone is going to be treated fairly in the state," she says. “No job discrimination. No housing discrimination.”

Some LGBT groups say a ballot campaign is ill-advised right now, and efforts should be focused on getting the Legislature to act instead of putting the question to voters.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.