ASMSU passes two pro-LGBT bills through policy committee
Thursday night at the first ASMSU committee meetings of October, the policy committee passed two bills concerning the LGBT community through to General Assembly.
Bill No. 55-08 pushes for advocacy to amend the state-level Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act of 1976 to include protections on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.
“Right now in Michigan, people who are LGBT can be fired from their jobs or evicted for their housing with that reasoning in mind, and there’s nothing really stopping it,” Ben Horne, vice chairman of policy committee and the second sponsor of the bill, said. “In my view, MSU has done a great job in increasing their anti-discrimination policy to include gender identity and sexual orientation. ASMSU in the past has advocated for those very changes, so I think keeping that advocacy in line with our past actions sets a good precedent.”
If the bill passes through General Assembly next Thursday, then members of ASMSU will have been officially authorized to advocate to city, county and state legislatures to make this change to the state Civil Rights Act, which has been amended over 20 times since its initial publication in 1976.
“Currently, Elliot-Larsen does not include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. It has been shot down in the House the last couple of years,” Colin Wiebrecht, representative of the Alliance of Queer & Ally Students, and sponsor of the bill, said. “Any Republicans that have tried to advocate in favor of it have lost their subsequent primaries.”
The bills passed through committee on National Coming Out Day, and one day before the 20 year anniversary of the death of Matthew Shepard. Shepard was a gay student at the University of Wyoming who was brutally beaten, tortured and left to die in October of 1998. His death has become a call to action for the LGBT community in the years since.
“I think the fact that it’s 20 years and we still don’t have protections on the federal level or the state level speaks a lot to the fact that there’s still a long way to go,” Wiebrecht said.
Bill No. 55-09 is for supporting a change to the Food and Drug Administration’s policy to defer men who have had sexual relations with other men from donating blood.
The policy was initially enacted in the 1980s at the height of the AIDS crisis when HIV was thought to only affect members of the LGBT population.
“With the advancements in HIV testing, prevention, etc., and testing specifically with blood donations, there’s not a whole lot of reason for that ban to still be in place,” Horne said. “So, this is, advocating, in my opinion, doing the right thing.”
Wiebrecht added that beyond the fact that it is safe, having different policies for gay and bisexual men contributes to the stigmatization that the LGBT community faces.
“They changed it to a one-year deferral (from donating for men who have had sexual conduct with another man within a year), which is essentially a de facto life ban,” he said. “You’re saying, ‘We still don’t think that you’re safe enough to donate blood unless you’ve abstained from sexual activity in the past year.’ It’s a slap in the face to everybody in the LGBT community.”
The General Assembly will vote on both bills next Thursday.