Michigan House Speaker: It’s A ‘Struggle’ To Protect Gay People From Discrimination

Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger (R)

Democratic state lawmakers in Michigan have proposed revisions to the state’s anti-discrimination law, known as the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, to include protections based on sexual orientation. But House Speaker Jase Bolger (R) told MLive that it’s a “struggle” for him to figure out how to respect gay people in this regard:

BOLGER: I want to respect gay individuals. I don’t want to send a message as a society that we are intolerant. I think that we need to respect people who are different from us, whether they’re different because they believe differently, whether they’re different because they have different skin color, or whether they’re different because they’re straight or gay. The other side of that equation is I also want to respect people’s religious beliefs. And that’s where the struggle really comes in. I want to respect gay people, I want to respect people who have deeply held religious beliefs.

And so legally – as a lawmaker now – you go back and you look at Elliott-Larsen, and it gets very difficult to try to balance those two. And that encapsulates the struggle. The struggle is how do we respect individuals on both sides of this question. I want to respect the individual rights of someone who’s gay. And I also, in doing that, don’t want to force somebody to ignore or violate their religious beliefs.

The solution to Bolger’s struggle is relatively simple. Under Elliott-Larson, people are already protected from workplace and housing discrimination based on their religion. Adding sexual orientation to the law does not require removing the religious protections and nobody is suggesting it should. It just means that people wouldn’t be fired, evicted, or refused service simply because they’re gay. If Bolger wants to respect both gay and religious people — not to mention gay religious people — all he has to do is make sure that both are included in the law.

If, on the other hand, he believes that being gay is a valid reason to be denied employment, shelter, or basic access to public services, then he doesn’t really respect gay people at all.