LANSING — Michigan GOP leaders are asking Michigan’s Attorney General Bill Schuette to say the state’s Civil Rights Commission overstepped its powers when it said it could hear complaints of anti-LGBTQ discrimination, a Michigan newspaper reported.
From the Detroit Free Press:
“We write to request your opinion on the legality of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission’s decision to usurp the Legislature’s authority by attempting to amend state law under the guise of an interpretive statement,” wrote Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, and Speaker of the House Tom Leonard, R-Dewit.
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 unsuccessful attempts in the Legislature to expand the act so that sex is also defined to include the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender community.
Gov. Rick Snyder also has supported that expansion and Equality Michigan, which advocates for the LGBT community, asked the Civil Rights Commission to expand the definition of sex to include the LGBT community.
The change came in May when the commission voted 5-0 to expand the commission’s interpretation of ELCRA to include protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identification in employment, education, housing and real estate as well as use of public accommodations and public service.
As a result, the commission began receiving discrimination complaints from citizens shortly after it issued its interpretive statement, said commission spokeswoman Vicki Levengood, who didn’t have a specific number of complaints available yet.
During the commission’s hearings to expand their discrimination investigations, Ron Robinson, an assistant in the Attorney General’s Office, told the commission that it didn’t have the authority to re-interpret the civil rights act, the Free Press reported. However, 27 lawyers, law professors and former commission members said the commission had a responsibility and was authorized to interpret “a statute it deems ambiguous.”
Levengood told the newspaper that the commission had received a copy of the letter and was preparing to defend their actions.
Stephanie White, executive director of Equality Michigan, told the Free Press it was surprising that Meekhof and Leonard would take a such a public stance that discrimination complaints against certain Michigan citizens should be ignored.