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Michigan Court Gives LGBTQ Group Ballot-Signature Extension

June 10, 2020, 10:47 PM

A Michigan group seeking state LGBTQ employment rights will get 69 more days to gather signatures, a state court ruled, saying the group’s time to gather signatures was cut short by coronavirus pandemic orders.

Fair and Equal Michigan, a group seeking gender identity and sexual orientation protections to be covered by state law, sued the Michigan secretary of state to get extra days for collecting signatures needed to put its law-change measure on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens ruled Wednesday that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) “Stay Safe At Home” orders prevented the group from gathering signatures in the statutory 180-day window, so it must be allowed more time to meet the state’s 340,047 minimum signature threshold. That will require a big push. The group has gathered 180,000 signatures thus far.

The campaign attempted to gather electronic signatures during the state’s shelter-in-place order, but found that method too inefficient and expensive. The day before its signatures were due, the group sued to extend its deadline and have the amount of necessary signatures reduced.

While she permitted the extended signature-gathering deadline, Stephens denied the group’s request to cut the signature amount. In her ruling, she said the court isn’t aware of any precedent for groups receiving a reduced signature requirement for a ballot initiative.

“The Court of Claims recognized that COVID-19 impacted the fundamental constitutional rights of our nearly 200,000 supporters,” the group said in a statement.

The case is Fair and Equal Michigan v. Benson, Mich. Ct. Cl., No. 00095, Preliminary injunction granted 6/10/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Ebert in Columbus, Ohio at aebert@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Karl Hardy at khardy@bloomberglaw.com; Meghashyam Mali at mmali@bloombergindustry.com