GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — An event in Grand Rapids Friday will celebrate the expansion of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act in Michigan.

The 1977 law was expanded in March to include sexual orientation and gender expression as protected categories. In response, the Grand Rapids Pride Center is hosting a Happy Hour Celebration from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Varnum Rooftop Deck at 333 Bridge St. NW near US-131.

It will be hosted by civil rights advocate Marshall Kilgore, who recently joined the Pride Center’s Board of Directors. He said the expansion is the result of more than four decades of the community advocating and lobbying.

“This has been in the making for over 46 years,” Kilgore said. “This will be a Happy Hour Celebration honoring the activists, community members and leaders, legislatures, and our community receiving these protections under Michigan state law.”

The Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act now says people cannot be discriminated against in employment, housing, public accommodations, public service and education due to sexual orientation and gender expression.

“This helps protect all Michiganders to simply have human rights, to simply be able to live their most authentic and best lives here in Michigan,” Kilgore said. “…(This) makes sure that all Michiganders can work, love, live and play here in Michigan.”

There are three ticket prices and attendees are asked to pay for what they can afford: $47, commemorating how many years ago Elliott-Larsen was introduced, $20.23, commemorating when the expansion was signed into law, or $12, commemorating Jan. 12, the day the expansion amendment was introduced.

Kilgore said along with music and drinks, Michigan Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, U.S. Rep. Hillary Scholten, D-Grand Rapids, and state Rep. Jason Hoskins, D-Southfield — who was one of the lawmakers that introduced the legislation for the expansion — will be in attendance.

“They’ll be hanging out with us, talking about the legislation, talking about the fight that we still have,” Kilgore said.

He said civil rights activists in Michigan are now lobbying to ban conversion therapy in the state and to make it easier to change someone’s name.

The expansion of Michigan’s civil rights law comes as some other states, like Florida, have passed bills targeting people who are transgender. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, meanwhile, has changed its blood donation policy and now allows donations from gay and bisexual men.

“This is something that’s near and dear to my heart,” Kilgore, who had an uncle who needed several blood transfusions, said. “I’m happy that they lifted this very closed-minded way of thinking that they had surrounding blood donation.”

He said like Elliott-Larsen, policies and legislation is always “evolving and moving.” 

“These are not very political, divisive things as we think they are, as society wants to make them sometimes. These are simply about making people’s lives better. So I’m hoping with that type of change on being able to donate blood that people’s live are just better and folks can … breathe easier,” Kilgore said.

To buy tickets for the Happy Hour Celebration, go to