Left: The Elliott-Larsen Building, formerly the Lewis Cass Building. (Photo via Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy Facebook) Right: Republican State Rep. Melvin Larsen and Democratic State Rep. Daisy Elliott. (Photo via Michigan State Bar)
Left: The Elliott-Larsen Building, formerly the Lewis Cass Building. (Photo via Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy Facebook) Right: Republican State Rep. Melvin Larsen and Democratic State Rep. Daisy Elliott. (Photo via Michigan State Bar)

According to Gov. Whitmer, Daisy Elliott’s and Melvin Larsen’s names reflect what modern Michigan wants to stand for.

LANSING, MI — The state’s largest government office building in downtown Lansing has been renamed, honoring the legislators synonymous with Michigan’s civil rights legislation.

The Cass Building was named for Michigan’s second territorial governor, Lewis Cass, who had been a proponent of slavery and had himself owned slaves. Cass also implemented policies that forced Native Americans from their land. While Cass is an important figure in Michigan history, Cass’ values do not reflect what modern Michigan wants to stand for, said a press release from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

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The decision to take Cass’ name comes as cities and states nationwide have been reassessing the statues and monuments to figures in America’s history. 

The office building was renamed for Republican State Rep. Melvin Larsen and Democratic State Rep. Daisy Elliott, whose signature legislation is Michigan’s civil rights legislation signed into law by Governor William Milliken in January of 1977.

“Together, Melvin Larsen and Daisy Elliott’s names have become synonymous in Michigan with the protection of civil rights,” said Governor Whitmer. “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.”

This also marks the first time a Michigan government building was named after a Black woman, coming at a time when Black Michiganders are calling for government reforms following the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd in police custody. 

“That’s why I am proud to rename the Cass building in Lansing to the Elliott-Larsen building,” Gov. Whitmer said. “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.”  

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Gov. Whitmer has pressed repeatedly for LGBTQ Michiganders to be covered by the Elliott-Larsen Act, and an attempt to add such a change to the November ballot is still underway, showing the continued importance and impact of the legislation. 

“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, located at 320 S. Walnut St. in downtown Lansing, was renamed by Executive Order 2020-139.