LANSING, Mich. (WXYZ) — The Lewis Cass Building in downtown Lansing is being renamed the "Elliott-Larsen Building" in honor of the legislators who sponsored Michigan's civil rights act.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order to rename the state-owned building in honor of the 1977 bill signed by Gov. William Milliken.
The order also marks the first time in Michigan history a state building is named for an African American woman.
“Together, Melvin Larsen and Daisy Elliott’s names have become synonymous in Michigan with the protection of civil rights,” Whitmer said in a release. “In 2020, we must honor the work of our predecessors who, 44 years ago, outlined in law the vision of what we continue to strive for even today. We must hold up those who worked to build a better Michigan for us all, regardless of race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, and gender identity. That’s why I am proud to rename the Cass building in Lansing to the Elliott-Larsen building. There is still more work to do. 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.”
“Daisy Elliott and Mel Larson’s landmark legislation has removed barriers to equity, progress, and participation for Michiganders in every part of our state” Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist added in the release. “As we continue the march toward justice and equity in Michigan, naming this building for these leaders sets in stone their names as a reminder to Michigan public servants to choose inclusive ideals over closed-minded ideologies. We can and must build upon the foundation laid by Elliott and Larsen to make our state a home for opportunity for all.”
Elliott and Larsen, former members of the Michigan House of Representatives, passed Public Act 453 in 1976, which declared the right to be free from discrimination is a civil right. Currently, Whitmer has called for the legislature to expand the act to protect
members of the LGBTQ+ community.
“I am humbled and thrilled at this announcement and give all credit to Daisy who initiated working together to sponsor the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act,” Larsen said. “Having the honor of this building named after the two of us is the ultimate honor of the work she began decades ago to guarantee equality and justice for all of Michigan’s people.”
“The family of Daisy Elliott is honored and grateful to the State of Michigan for acknowledging the contributions of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act,” said Badriyyah Sabree, granddaughter of Daisy Elliott. “There is not a day that goes by that we don’t think of our beloved Daisy, and there is not a day that goes by in the state of Michigan when the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act is not utilized in one of Michigan’s courts to protect the civil rights of its residents. Michigan is forever indebted to Daisy Elliott and Mel Larson for championing this landmark legislation.”
The building was previously named for Lewis Cass, who was Michigan's territorial governor. Whitmer said that no one can deny the role he played for the state, but added that Cass owned a slave and defended a system that would permit the expansion of slavery.
The order is effective immediately and the Department of Management, Technology and Budget will work to update the signage of the Elliott-Larsen Building as soon as possible.