LANSING — The Michigan Civil Rights Commission said on Monday that they will stand by decision to include LGBTQ rights despite the opinion of Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, local media reported.
At a meeting in northern Michigan Monday, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission reiterated its support for the interpretive statement members approved in May legally interpreting the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act’s ban on “discrimination because of … sex” to include discrimination against sexual orientation or gender identity.
In a formal opinion issued Friday afternoon, Schuette determined the statement was invalid “because it conflicts with the original intent of the Legislature as expressed in the plain language of the Act, and as interpreted by Michigan’s courts.”
Schuette, who is currently running for governor in the Republican primary, wrote the significance of the issues addressed by the commission’s interpretive statement “is not lost on this office,” but said the commission overstepped its bounds by legislating from the executive branch.
Michigan Department of Civil Rights Director Agustin V. Arbulu said Monday the department will continue to investigate discrimination complaints based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“The Michigan Civil Rights Commission is an independent, constitutionally created and established body,” Arbulu said. “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.”
Stephanie White, Equality Michigan executive director, offered the following statement in response on the organization’s Facebook page:
“The Commission has the legal authority to to interpret statutes the Legislature has empowered them to enforce. This empowerment has been made clear by the Michigan Supreme Court, and are also consistent with the structure and language of both the Administrative Procedures Act and the Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act.
“The Attorney General has no role in the process, and his opinion cannot invalidate the Commission’s interpretation, as he is not a judge, nor are his opinions judicial decisions.
“Nothing has changed as the Commission will continue taking LGBT discrimination complaints. The Attorney General cannot force the Commission to comply with his biased interpretation of the law.
“Finally, the Attorney General’s analysis of the underlying interpretative question is wrong. He cherry-picked precedents to arrive at his preferred policy, citing precedents that have been overruled, dissenting opinions, and ignores the bulk of precedent from around the country, including federal courts encompassing Michigan.”