Michigan advocacy groups have launched a campaign aimed at updating the state's laws to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens against employment discrimination.

"It goes inherently against our American values to fire someone based solely upon who they are or whom they love," said Jay Kaplan, ACLU of Michigan LGBT Project staff attorney. "Across the board, the majority of Americans believe employment decisions should be based on a person's qualifications and work ethic. It's time for our legislature to get in step with the American public."

The Unity Michigan Coalition's "Don't Change Yourself. Change the Law" campaign seeks to update the 35-year-old Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment and housing discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion and national origin.

"Being fired because you are gay or transgender is an especially bad consequence in an economy with 10.9% unemployment," said Jon Hoadley, Unity Michigan Coalition Director. "How can this be possible in 2011?"

The Unity Michigan Coalition includes the ACLU of Michigan, Affirmations, Equality Michigan, KICK, the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, and the Ruth Ellis Center.

Openly gay applicants were 40 percent less likely to be granted an interview than their heterosexual counterparts, according to a study published October 4 in the American Journal of Sociology.

There is no federal law that consistently protects LGBT individuals from employment discrimination, and only 21 states have laws that prohibit discrimination in the workplace based on a person’s sexual orientation.

Photo credit: Wolfgang Sauber