LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer unveiled the new sign for the renamed Elliott-Larsen Building in downtown Lansing. The state-owned building used to be called the Lewis Cass Building.
The new name is honoring former Republican State Rep. Melvin Larsen and former Democratic State Rep. Daisy Elliott who both sponsored Michigan's civil rights act in 1976. This is the first time in Michigan history that a state building is named after a Black woman.
“This new name honors the work of Daisy Elliott and Melvin Larsen who, 44 years ago, outlined in law the vision of the more just, equitable Michigan that we continue to strive for even today,” said Whitmer Monday.
At the ceremony, the governor was joined by Rep. Melvin Larsen and Badriyyah Sabree, granddaughter of Daisy Elliott. Larsen said it was wonderful to receive the honor Monday.
“Considering the history of civil rights in Michigan and all that has been fought for over the years, its important to ensure the future of our state reflects the civil rights values that we all hold to be true. I give special thanks to Daisy Elliott for initiating the idea of legislation all those years ago. The Civil Rights Act is as important today as it was when it was adopted in 1976," he said in a statement.
The Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act declared that the right to be free from discrimination is a civil right and expanded constitutional protections to a broader class of individuals. However, at Monday's ceremony, Whitmer called on the act to be expanded to include protections for the LGBTQ community.
“Moving forward, we must continue to honor those who have worked to build a stronger Michigan for everyone, regardless of race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Of course, our work to expand civil rights in Michigan is not done. It’s time for the legislature to expand the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to protect members of the LGBTQ+ community and make Michigan a state where more people want to move to for opportunity," the governor said in a statement.
Whitmer signed an executive order in June to rename the building. She said that Lewis Cass played an important role in Michigan's early history, but he owned a slave, defended the slavery system and implemented a policy that forced Native communities from their tribal lands.
"Governor Whitmer recognizes that the names we elevate express our values: to the workers who enter those halls every day and the public who those workers serve," a news release said in June.
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