Bill Schuette

photo: WWJ/Mike Campbell

Schuette: Michigan Commission's Decision On LGBT Discrimination Invalid

Attorney General Bill Schuette said the Michigan Civil Rights Commission overstepped its authority

July 20, 2018 - 6:10 pm

(AP/WWJ) -- Michigan's attorney general has declared invalid a state commission's decision to interpret the law to prohibit discrimination against LGBT people.

Bill Schuette, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, issued his formal opinion today. Schuette says discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is not a form of sex discrimination outlawed under Michigan's 1976 civil rights law. He says only the Legislature can expand such protections.

Back in May the Michigan Civil Rights Commission issued an interpretative statement banning LGBT discrimination, saying that an existing ban on "sex" discrimination also prohibits bias on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.

It was considered a victory for the LGBT community, and the Michigan Department of Civil Rights had planned to investigate suspected discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Schuette says the commission overstepped its boundaries, as state agencies are allowed to interpret laws, but such interpretations "cannot be used to change the statute or to enforce the statute in a way that conflicts with the law's plain meaning."

Schuette's decision says the panel's interpretation is invalid because "it conflicts with the original intent of the Legislature as expressed in the plain language of the Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act of 1976."

Sam Inglot, with the Liberal group Progress Michigan, says they are disappointed by the decision and will continue to fight for the LGBT community

"We’re going to do everything to stand up arm and arm with folks who are affected by this decision and we will fight alongside them until Michigan is truly a place where everybody has the freedom and the right to be who they are and love who they love,” Inglot told WWJ.

Attorney general opinions are considered binding unless reversed by a court.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.