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POLICY ALTERNATIVE PAPER

Policy Alternative Paper Karl Heilman SW 4710 November 27, 2013

POLICY ALTERNATIVE PAPER Introduction Equality within the state of Michigan has been prolonged by the inability of the state to properly defend the rights of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered community. With the current Elliott-Larson Civil Rights Act of 1976 allowing discrimination of the LGBT community, it is necessary to change this act as time has changed our views. Steps have been

made in the past with little success and a current proposition or amendment of the act is in place. Like other states and countries, change is possible and the possibility of change gives hope to this oppressed population. Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act The Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act was created and implemented in Michigan in 1976. The act was necessary for protecting the rights of the general population and especially those populations which were oppressed and discriminated against throughout the state. Although the Act was effective in protecting the rights of many citizens, it did not protect the rights of the homosexual population. Throughout time the act has been amended to include groups and populations that were excluded from its original version, but has yet to include the homosexual population. The Elliott-Larson Civil Rights Act, yet effective in eliminating discrimination of many types, must be amended to outlaw discrimination based on ones identification as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered (Equality Michigan, 2013). The Elliott-Larson Civil Rights Act currently reads, AN ACT to define civil rights; to prohibit discriminatory practices, policies, and customs in the exercise of those rights based upon religion, race, color, national origin,

POLICY ALTERNATIVE PAPER age, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status; to preserve the confidentiality

of records regarding arrest, detention, or other disposition in which a conviction does not result; to prescribe the powers and duties of the civil rights commission and the department of civil rights; to provide remedies and penalties; to provide for fees; and to repeal certain acts and parts of acts (Michigan.gov, 2013). Assess and Compare This Policy with a Similar Policy of One Other Country Although many countries have addressed the needs of the homosexual population in terms of law and policy, many countries have yet to do so. Countries like Russia have laws which protect the rights of their citizens, yet disregard laws prohibiting discrimination based on ones sexual identification. Like the Elliott-Larson Civil Rights Act in Michigan, Russias constitution prohibits discrimination based on sex, race, nationality, language, national origin, property and position, ideological conviction, membership in public associations, and other attributes and circumstances (Congress, 2013). Although Michigan and Russia are different in many ways as evidenced by political, economic and social norms, the distinct elimination of rights to those within their governed body is all too similar. When looking at countries which prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, we see the results of these laws as being positive in several aspects throughout the country. Countries such as South Africa, which was the first country in the world to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, set the bar for other countries to follow. The positive influence these countries have on others such as the United States and Russia is unmeasurable. South Africa has amended their constitution in response to the injustices gay and lesbian people have suffered

POLICY ALTERNATIVE PAPER

(sahistory.org, 2013). By doing so South Africa guarantees equality for gay and lesbian people (sahistory.org, 2013).

What Is Your Policy Alternative? Name It And Describe Where Change Will Need To Occur. (Local, state, federal)? In response to the needs, oppression and discrimination among the homosexual population, a new and amended civil rights act must be implemented. A proposed act known as the We the People, Civil Rights Act of 2013 would protect the rights of homosexuals and other minority groups within Michigan. By changing the name and contents of The Elliott-Larson Civil Rights Act, the state of Michigan would allow its governed residents the rights which they are entitled. The once known Elliott-Larson Civil Rights Act currently states, AN ACT to define civil rights; to prohibit discriminatory practices, policies, and customs in the exercise of those rights based upon religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status; to preserve the confidentiality of records regarding arrest, detention, or other disposition in which a conviction does not result; to prescribe the powers and duties of the civil rights commission and the department of civil rights; to provide remedies and penalties; to provide for fees; and to repeal certain acts and parts of acts (Michigan.gov, 2013). The We the People, Civil Rights Act of 2013 would state, AN ACT to define civil rights; to prohibit discriminatory practices, policies, and customs in the exercise of those rights based upon religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex,

POLICY ALTERNATIVE PAPER

sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression, height, weight, familial status, or marital status; to preserve the confidentiality of records regarding arrest, detention, or other disposition in which a conviction does not result; to prescribe the powers and duties of the civil rights commission and the department of civil rights; to provide remedies and penalties; to provide for fees; and to repeal certain acts and parts of acts. The basic change of the Elliot-Larson Civil Rights Act into the We the People, Civil Rights Act of 2013 appears simple in nature, yet complex and historical. This change in Michigans laws would impact social attitudes which lead to inequality amongst the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered) community. Such as those views among which the Elliot-Larson Civil Rights Act of 1976 was established has sculpted society into what it is today, so shall those within the We The People, Civil Rights Act of 2013. This change in civil rights will impact those 287,000 LGBT individuals who are estimated to live in the state of Michigan according to the 2010 Census (Equality Michigan, 2013).

Describe the feasibility of your alternative (Political, Economic and Administrative). Would this policy be feasible in the country identified in (b?) The We the People, Civil Rights Act of 2013 would be feasible in Michigan and evidenced by other states which already implemented such change in civil rights. Within the United States, twenty one states prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation while seventeen states prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and expression (Human Rights

POLICY ALTERNATIVE PAPER Campaign, 2013). Michigan has a chance to adapt to current political and economic trends, yet decides to hold on to views from the past and traditions of a now minority of the population. Past attempts to change or amend the Elliot-Larson Civil Rights Act were unsuccessful, yet necessary. Political forces and agendas have skewed the vote to amend this act and grant a population within the state their human rights. With the power of money guiding many political minds, it is only a matter of time until this Civil Rights Act is amended. Although the state allows such discrimination, 89% of the nation's Fortune 500 employers, including General

Motors, Ford, AT&T and Hewlett-Packard, have non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation (Equality Michigan, 2013). These same companies which uphold moral and ethical policies to protect their employees are those which give thousands of individuals jobs within the depleted and scarce Michigan economy. It is estimated that the buying power of the LGBT community in Michigan was 712 billion dollars in 2007 (Equality Michigan, 2013). With the increased employment rate and social acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle, this number is only to rise. Describe how the policy meets your policy goals e.g. social equality, redistribution of resources, social work values and ethics. The We the People, Civil Rights Act of 2013 meets the policy goals of social equality among the LGBT community. Equality within a state as stated by Tricia Antoniuk is the acknowledgment & honoring of diversity & difference, with a legal system that is flexible enough to protect this diversity (Antoniuk, 1999, pp. 47-60). By including sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, the state of Michigan is acknowledging diversity within its population and stating that they protect the rights of those individuals. Without their

POLICY ALTERNATIVE PAPER acknowledgement as currently stated within the Elliot-Larson Civil Rights Act, the rights and diverse views of this oppressed and discriminated against population are not protected. Along with the protection of rights through social equality, comes the redistribution of resources. With the We the People, Civil Rights Act of 2013, resources shall be distributed equally among the entire population of the state without discrimination. Resources in this particular situation are pertaining to education, healthcare, parenting and adoption, immigration and marriage. These resources or services have been unavailable to a large majority of the homosexual community or are available, yet through organizations who make it difficult to receive with the present law supporting their decisions. How will you work to implement your alternative? What are the forces that are for/against the policy and how will you use or sway each? To implement this alternative or revised Civil Rights Act, the community as a whole

must come together on a local and state level to address the concerns of the population. Through advocacy, the community may change policy and laws by addressing their concerns with those in power. This can be done within each individuals city and state. Because many cities within the state of Michigan have already addressed the concerns of the community regarding discrimination among the LGBT community, laws are already established at a local level. Such cities have begun the process of change and East Lansing was the first city in the nation to establish nondiscriminatory laws pertaining to the civil rights of the LGBT community based on sexual orientation and gender identity. While addressing the concerns regarding the current Elliot-Larson Civil Rights Act, Senator Carl Levin was contacted to address or portray his view on the current social problem

POLICY ALTERNATIVE PAPER within the state. Although his reply was in regards to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and not the Elliot-Larson Civil Rights Act which he was asked to respond to, he shows promise that change is being made to eliminate social inequality for the LGBT community? Senator Carl Levine responds, Dear Mr. Heilman, Thank you for contacting me about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA, S.815). I appreciate hearing your views on this matter. No one should be discriminated against based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced S.815 on April 25, 2013. I am a cosponsor of this bill, which seeks to prohibit discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity by entities such as employers, employment agencies or labor organizations. This prohibition would not apply to organizations that are exempt from religious discrimination provisions under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, nor would it apply to the armed forces.

I am pleased that on November 7, 2013, the Senate passed ENDA by a vote of 64 to 32. I voted in favor of the bill, which now awaits consideration by the House of Representatives. I will continue to work to eliminate discriminatory employment practices. Thank you again for contacting me. Sincerely, Carl Levin

POLICY ALTERNATIVE PAPER levin.senate.gov

Describe your personal feelings about this policy alternative and how you view your role as a social worker in the change process. Discrimination, whether on a personal or institutional level has impacted my life and the lives of those around me in a negative way. Although my instilled and revised values, moral or ethical, guide my life and the way I function with those within my environment, they are tainted by the unethical and immoral ways of fellow man. I feel as though our culture and inequality as the result of such discrimination has shaped my being and paved a road that I now travel. I think that everyone has been a victim of discrimination sometime within their life. While my role as a social worker could be irrelevant to the change necessary to amend the ElliotLarson Civil Rights Act, I hope to use the skills and knowledge acquired throughout my life and education to build awareness and advocate for the populations being discriminated and oppressed. By advocating and allowing the general population to become aware of the real matter at hand, I am building awareness necessary to make change when applicable. This form of change would occur during elections which pertain to our civil rights and those within diverse, oppressed and discriminated against populations. My life experiences and those within the LGBT community have molded a view so distinct and important which has influenced my thoughts regarding civil rights of those in my community, within my state. By amending the dated Elliot-Larson Civil Rights Act of 1976 and enacting the We the People, Civil Rights Act of 2013, my voice and the voice of the general population will be heard. The amended act and implementation of the new proposed act would

POLICY ALTERNATIVE PAPER

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help fight discrimination among the LGBT community and among many other diverse minorities yet to be heard. Conclusion In conclusion, the state of Michigan has yet to revise the Elliot-Larson Act of 1976 which has allowed for discrimination and oppression of a large population with the state. By amending the act or implementing the We the People, Civil Rights Act of 2013, we will continue as social workers to advocate and fight for the rights of those within our community. This change demanded by the people will occur with a continued stride on a local, state and federal level. Although current bills being debated are related to employment as Senator Carl Levine stated, it is one less obstacle or hurdle we need to jump in this continuous fight for equality.