LANSING – Michigan’s Attorney General Bill Schuette issued his official opinion on if the Michigan Civil Rights Commission overstepped its authority when it said that discrimination complaints should cover the LGBT community.
In Schuette’s opinion, he said that a valid interpretation of the term “sex” in the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act does not protect the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender community. The attorney general concludes that the Civil Rights Commission’s interpretation “conflicts with the original intent of the Legislature,” and it is therefore “invalid.”
Attorney general opinions are binding on state agencies and officers in Michigan, unless overruled by a court.
Republican leaders asked Schuette in June to give an opinion on the Civil Rights Commissions vote in May to expand the interpretation of ELCRA.
Schuette says that by understanding the ELCRA as it was written in 1976, “the word ‘sex’ refers to the biological different between males and females not to distinct concepts of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Right now, the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act protects people against discrimination based on sex, race, religion, national origin, age and marital status. There have been previous unsuccessful attempts to expand the act so that sex is also defined to include the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender community.
Gov. Snyder has also supported expanded the existing laws, and Equality Michigan asked the Civil Rights Commission to expand the definition of sex to include the LGBT community. Equality Michigan issued this statement about Schuette’s opinion:
“The Michigan Civil Rights Commission acted lawfully when it issued Interpretative Statement 2018-1. Specifically, the Commission voted to adopt as Interpretive Statement 2018-1 that “discrimination because of…sex” includes discrimination because of gender identity and discrimination because of sexual orientation. It is imperative that the Michigan Civil Rights Commission defend its interpretation as the Attorney General’s Opinion does not have the force of law, and cannot bind state agencies.While the Attorney General continues to polish his anti-LGBT credentials in a contested Gubernatorial race, today’s overreach cuts at the Commission’s core constitutional authority, which should concern everyone.”
Schuette did indicate that Michigan’s legislature can add sexual orientation and gender identity to the civil rights statute, but for the past 15 years that legislation has been presented but has not been added to the ELCRA.
The Attorney General’s full legal opinion can be seen here:
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