BY DAVID EGGERT
MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. -- Chrysler and Michigan's two largest regional chambers of commerce on Thursday joined a business-backed push for an update of state law to prohibit discrimination because of sexual orientation or gender identity, an issue Gov. Rick Snyder said lawmakers should consider later this year.
"It's a business issue," said Rick Baker, president and CEO of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. "We've had companies in our area express concern about their ability to attract and retain talent. We wanted to address their concerns ... and create a climate where everyone feels welcome in Michigan."
The announcement at the Detroit Regional Chamber's Mackinac Policy Conference was no accident. The annual gathering attracts more than 1,500 of the state's top business, political and civic leaders, and Snyder — in his strongest comments to date — said he opposes discrimination and urged legislators to consider the issue later this year.
He stopped short of specifically backing an update of the 1976 Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, but the Republican governor's request that the GOP-led Legislature debate the matter was seen as a positive sign by advocates.
Under Michigan law, it is illegal to discriminate based on religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status or marital status. Efforts to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list have stalled because of Republicans' concerns about infringing on employers' religious freedom.