Michigan Civil Rights Commission, Attorney General clash over nondiscrimination law

The Civil Rights Commission of Michigan has decided to continue to investigate claims of anti-LGTBQ discrimination.

They’re doing this despite active disagreement from that state’s Attorney General, Bill Schuette.

Schuette claims that under the current provision of the state’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act, members of the community are not entitled to protection under that law, if discriminated against on the basis of gender identity, sexual orientation, or a similar factor.

As various commenters have pointed out, this claim of Schuette’s conflicts with an opinion passed down by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission.

The Commission voted on May 21 to legally affirm that the Elliot-Larsen Act does, in fact, extend to cover LGBTQ residents in specific matters of discrimination. They justified this affirmation based on the 1976 Act’s use of the word “sex.”

As reported by Pride Source, on July 20, a formal opinion was issued by Schuette’s office, “asserting his opinion that state law ‘prohibits discrimination based on sex but does not cover distinctions based on sexual orientation or gender identity … The commission’s ruling is invalid.’”

According to the Detroit News, in response, the Commission affirmed on Monday that its May decision still held, and directed a state agency to continue investigation complains resulting from alleged LGBTQ discrimination.

Department of Civil Rights Director Agustin V. Arbulu said that the department would continue to follow the lead of the Commission.

In his statement, Arbulu said that “The commission is not bound by the opinion of the attorney general. The only recourse is for the courts to determine if issuing the interpretive statement was within the scope of the commission’s authority, and that is the appropriate venue for resolving this issue.”

Supporters of the Commission say that Schuette has ulterior motives. The Attorney General is a candidate for governor.

Opponents of Schuette’s position say the Attorney General is cherry-picking his precedents, to establish a false interpretation.