Mich. Gov. Looking for 'Partner' to Discuss Inclusive Antidiscrimination Reform

Gov. Rick Snyder said he is open to discussions about adding sexual orientation to Michigan's statewide nondiscrimination law.

BY Sunnivie Brydum

December 17 2013 2:38 PM ET

Michigan's Republican governor said he is open to discussion about adding nondiscrimination protections for gay and lesbian people to state law but that he won't be the one to initiate that conversation. 

"I'll wait for, most likely, a signal from the Legislature to say they're open to having that discussion," Snyder told MLive in a year-end interview published Monday. "There is some openness likely there. I think the speaker has made some comments along those lines. I'm willing to have that dialogue, but I need a partner to have it with."

That's a marked shift in tone from October, when Snyder told the same news outlet that protecting LGBT people against employment discrimination wasn't high on his list of priorities. Calling workplace discrimination "hypothetical," Snyder said whether or not being gay was a "good reason" to be fired would "depend on the particular facts of the situation."

There are currently no statewide protections for LGBT workers in Michigan. As of November, 30 municipalities had added protections for LGBT workers, according to Unity Michigan. But the state legislature is still divided, andit  failed to pass bills that would have banned employment discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation in Michigan in 2009 and 2012. There is no similar legislation up for consideration in the legislature‚Äôs current session.

Snyder, who typically avoids discussing controversial subjects, according to MLive, did condemn the antigay remarks of Dave Agema, who represents the state on the Republican National Committee. Agema told a gathering of Republicans in early December that gay people "want free medical [care] because they're dying between 30 and 44 years old," a reference to HIV and AIDS. Agema also claimed that when he was a pilot for American Airlines, he saw employees claim a person with AIDS as their partner just so the sick person could get health care. A spokeswoman for Snyder said last week that the governor believed Agema's remarks were "wrong, extreme, and discriminatory." 

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