Days before both 2018 and his term ended, former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed an executive directive to expand sexual orientation discrimination protections for private employees.
Snyder signed the directive on December 27, providing state agencies and departments that deal with procurement, loan, and grant programs with instructions to not discriminate against employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The directive, 2018-7, was signed towards the end of Snyder’s second term as governor.
Michigan’s new governor, Gretchen Whitmer, quickly echoed Snyder’s decision, signing executive directive 2019-9 on January 7.
“If we’re going to attract the talented workforce our businesses need to create jobs and grow our economy, then we’ve got to be on the right side of history,” Whitmer said in a press release.
Employment protections will apply to all state employees, including classified and unclassified employees, employees of government contractors, and anyone receiving state services. The directive also extends prohibitions on discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. In May 2018, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission found that the state’s civil rights law included sexual orientation and gender identity.
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers also opened the new year with an executive order prohibiting anti-LGBT discrimination of state employees.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, Michigan is one of 31 U.S. states that lack comprehensive statewide non-discrimination protections for members of the LGBTQ community, while Wisconsin is one of 28 states lacking explicit non-discrimination protections on the basis of gender identity.
The states’ support for such protections stands in contrast to the Trump Administration, which in 2017 ordered the Justice Department to support the position that a civil rights law that bans workplace discrimination on the basis of sex does not include transgender people.
Further opposition to the administration’s stance on the issue also arose January 3 from the U.S. House of Representatives, which passed the first ever rules package to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said she would make the Equality Act a priority for Congress. The bill proposes comprehensive federal protections for members of the LGBTQ community.
In 2017, a U.S. federal court of appeals ruled that discrimination based on sexual orientation is prohibited by the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964. The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit brought by Kimberly Hivey who argued she was not hired by Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana because of her sexual orientation.