Despite calls from businesses, GOP leaders still lukewarm on LGBT protections

Some major Michigan businesses are urging lawmakers to add protections for LGBT residents to the state’s civil rights law. But that doesn’t seem to be changing Republican leaders’ tune on the issue.

Right now, it’s legal in Michigan to fire someone or deny them housing based on their sexual orientation. AT&T, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and several other businesses say that makes it harder to attract talent.

But Ari Adler, a spokesperson for state House Speaker Jase Bolger, says it’s also important to make sure religious people aren’t forced to go against their beliefs. He says Bolger, R-Marshall, has been looking for ways to balance the rights of LGBT and religious residents – but hasn’t yet found a way to do that.

“It’s extremely difficult to find a solution that can be put into law that will strike a proper balance between individual liberty and religious freedom,” said Adler. “If it were easy, we would have it done by now.”

State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, says it’s not OK that people can lose their jobs because they’re gay. But, like Bolger, he also has concerns about unintended consequences for religious residents.

“There are other people that need protection, too,” Richardville told reporters Thursday. “We need to take a look at all people, not just one group.”

“I haven’t made a final decision because I want to make sure that if we do something this monumental – this statute has been in place for some 30 years or more – I would want to make sure that we did it carefully and we did it right. The language and other things like that are important.”

Richardville says if lawmakers decide to take up the issue, he would like to hold a vote before the November election.

Gov. Rick Snyder has shown little interest in amending the state’s civil rights law to include LGBT protections.