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Monday, July 29, 2013

Move Forward Michigan - Part One: LGBT Marriage Equality Project

LGBT Pride Parade San Francisco 2009
LGBT Pride Parade  (Photo credit: davidyuweb)

By IU News & Talk
Columnist Joel M.

Let’s say you’re married.

Let’s say you’re married, out of work, and you find a job in another state. Or let’s say you’re married and your company transfers you out-of-state. What’s the normal procedure for most couples?

Moving across state borders isn’t something you take up lightly. Most people will probably first sit down and discuss the pros and the cons of relocating with their significant other and whether or not the job is worth the move.

If you decide that moving is a good idea, you might start looking online for a new place to live or maybe ask any friends and family in the area if they could keep an eye open for you. Maybe you’ll take a look at the job market and try to determine whether or not your spouse could also find employment if you move. Eventually, you’ll have to go yourselves, find a good school for your kids if you have any, and, finally, sign the paperwork on your new place and move.

What happens if you’re gay and married and your spouse gets a job in Michigan?

Some of the same things still happen: You sit down together and discuss the pros and cons of moving. You look for a nice apartment or a nice house in a good neighborhood. Look for a good school if you have kids, find a job, etc.

But let’s say that you’re moving to Michigan which passed a constitutional amendment in 2004 defining marriage as a man and a woman – are you still married? What impact will there be now that the Supreme Court has struck down DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) as unconstitutional? If you have kids together, how does custody work? Are you both still recognized as the legal guardians?

Let’s say you’re not married and you don’t have any children. No issues, right? Your legal standing shouldn’t be any different from an unmarried straight couple, should it?

Well, before you go looking for work, you need to make sure that the company you want to work for has their own non-discrimination policy for sexual orientation and gender identity since, according to Michigan law, you can still be fired for being gay or because you are transgender or even if you are simply perceived as non-gender conforming.

A lot of change has happened in the movement for LGBT equality across this country in the last ten years and much of that change has been positive. This sort of rapid shift, however, is not without its unique set of drawbacks.

One of the primary consequences is confusion. Many people are unsure of what local and state law say about things like discrimination in the workplace or adoption rights. Similarly, another consequence of this fast-changing climate of attitude and policy is that many people assume that discrimination in the workplace or housing must be ancient history by now when often the opposite is still true.

Over the coming weeks, we will explore different areas of discrimination that members of the LGBT community commonly face and where Michigan law leaves them. Among the various areas of discrimination that we will examine together are: partner rights and benefits, workplace discrimination, housing discrimination, and adoption. If you have any specific questions that you would like addressed, please feel free to mention them in the comments.

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