Michigan Attorney General says state civil rights commission can do LGBTQ discrimination investigations

LANSING — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Tuesday told the state civil rights commission that it wasn’t bound by restrictions imposed by the previous Attorney General preventing inclusion of the LGBTQ community. 

In 2018, former AG Bill Schuette said that Michigan’s civil rights law, the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. 

According to a press release from the AG’s office, Civil Rights Commission Chair Alma Wheeler Smith had submitted an opinion request to reconsider Schuette’s opinion. Nessel did not issue a formal opinion. However, the office did provide informal guidance saying the commission did not need to follow the old opinion. 

From the AG office’s statement:
Acknowledging the office’s longstanding policy not to issue a formal opinion “with respect to issues that are pending in, or likely to become the subject of, litigation,” Sonneborn noted that, after the Commission sought Nessel’s opinion, the United States Supreme Court decided on April 22, 2019 to review a case involving a Michigan funeral home employer’s actions, RG & GR Harris Funeral Homes, Inc v Equal Employment Opportunity Comm, 139 S Ct 1599 (2019), and to consider whether the federal civil rights law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibits gender-identity and sexual-orientation discrimination. This circumstance, Sonneborn concluded, “raises a question of federal law which was contemplated in OAG No. 7305 and Michigan courts in considering the issue” and therefore “the Commission is not bound by OAG No.

Michigan proclaims June Pride month

 

LANSING — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Witmer proclaimed June Pride month in the state this week. Michigan TV station NBC25 reported that Witmer, a Democrat, signed the proclamation on Monday. From NBC25:
Governor Whitmer said,

“This is an important step in ensuring LGBTQ Michiganders are treated with the respect they deserve, but there’s still more work to do/ We must all press forward to ensure Michigan steps up to the forefront of advancing civil rights for LGBTQ individuals, and that includes expanding the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to protect everyone, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity. Nobody should lose their job or their home because of who they are or who they love. Making Michigan a more open, inclusive state benefits our communities, our businesses, and our economy.”
“When we work together to ensure our state requires that everyone is treated equally under the law, we are able to recruit and retain the talent Michigan needs to thrive/ No matter who you love or how you identify, you are welcome and wanted here.”

New bill in Michigan would add LGBTQ to protected classes

LANSING — Lawmakers in Michigan have introduced a bill that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s civil rights law. MLive.com reported that the bill was introduced into the state legislature and that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, has said that she would sign it. 

From MLive:

The legislation – sponsored by Sen. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, Rep. Jon Hoadley, D-Kalamazoo, and Rep. Tim Sneller, D-Burton – would add sexual orientation and gender identity protections against discrimination to Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. During a Tuesday press conference, Moss and Hoadley said there are moral and economic reasons lawmakers should get on board with this expansion, but said they were hopeful the human aspect of having LGBT lawmakers in the legislature would help get their bills to the governor’s desk. “Just by being our authentic selves, we have moved the conversation,” Moss said. “Nobody in the legislature can say, ‘I don’t know somebody who is part of the LGBT community,’ because we’re there.

‘Conversion therapy’ ban filed in Michigan legislature

LANSING — Legislation was filed this week to make Michigan the 17th state to ban “conversion therapy.” WDIV-TV reported that Michigan St. Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) and Michigan St. Rep. Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor) introduced Senate Bill 284 and House Bill 4515 to protect LGBTQ youth. 

“Eradicating conversion therapy will send a clear message that Michigan is a place where discrimination will not be tolerated,” McMorrow told the TV station. “If we want to attract and retain talented, hardworking people in our communities, we need to ensure that our state is welcoming and open to all.”

“Conversion therapy is based on prejudice and has been discredited by modern medicine,” Rabhi said.

Michigan settlement stop adoption agencies from barring LGBTQ families

LANSING — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has reached a settlement that would require the state Department of Health and Human Services to end contracts with adoption agencies if they discriminate against LGBTQ couples. From the Detroit News:

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan filed the lawsuit in 2017 on behalf of Kristy and Dana Dumont of Dimondale and Erin and Rebecca Busk Sutton of Detroit after they sought to adopt a child out of Michigan’s foster care system, but were rejected by agencies with religious objections to same-sex couples. The couples’ lawsuit was filed against the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Michigan Children’s Services Agency. The complaint centered around faith-based agencies Bethany Christian Services and St. Vincent Catholic Charities, which was named as an intervenor-defendant in the case.

Western Michigan University to host MBLGTACC in 2020

LANSING, Mich. — Students from Western Michigan University will host the 28th annual Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Asexual College Conference (MBLGTACC) from February 14-16, 2020 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. MBLGTACC, the flagship program of the Midwest Institute for Sexuality and Gender Diversity, is a three-day, student-run conference that includes a variety of keynote speakers, workshops, identity forums, and entertainment. The conference aims to connect, educate and empower students from across the region and nation. In 2018, the MBLGTACC Oversight Committee selected WMU to host the event; and, for the past year, the student leadership team has been diligently moving through early planning stages.

New Michigan AG says LGBTQ protected by state’s civil rights law

LANSING — In a reversal from her predecessor, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, said that LGBTQ people will be protected by the state’s civil rights law on Friday. From the Detroit Free Press:

Her proclamation overturns an order her predecessor, Bill Schuette, made in July that said the commission went too far when it voted in May, 5-0-1, to expand its interpretation of the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include discrimination based gender identity and sexual orientation in employment, education, housing and real estate as well as use of public accommodations and public service. “The ugly reality is that discrimination against the LGBTQ community does occur on a daily bases in this state,” Nessel said. She added, “it is incumbent on me, as attorney general of this state,” to allow the commission to investigate discrimination. “Justice demands no less.”

Michigan’s GOP House Speaker not interested in expanding civil rights law

LANSING — Michigan’s House Speaker, Republican Lee Chatfield, told local media that he wouldn’t move forward with any tries to expand the state’s civil rights law to include LGBTQ people. From MLive:

Asked whether a change to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act expanding anti-discrimination laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity could happen during an interview on Off the Record, Chatfield, R-Levering, said: “I probably would not allow a bill to come up that I believe would infringe on religious freedom.”
“Personally, I don’t believe people should be discriminated against,” he said. “But at the same time, I’m never going to endorse a law or allow a bill to come for a vote that I believe infringes on someone’s ability to exercise their sincerely held religious beliefs.”
Chatfield said on the show he believed there was public pressure against changing the law and also said such a change could open up people with religious beliefs to “reverse discrimination,” suggesting negative impacts would outweigh any benefits. “If people today in Michigan were being discriminated against on a daily basis because of their sexual orientation, it would be statewide news, and we all know it,” he said. Equality Michigan had this response on their Facebook page: “The Speaker should meet with our Department of Victim Services to better understand the amount of violence, discrimination and harassment experienced daily by members of the LGBTQ community.

New Michigan gov. signs LGBTQ protections directive

LANSING — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat sworn in on Jan. 1, has signed a directive strengthening protections for LGBTQ people with state employment, contracting and services. From the Detroit Free Press:

The directive, signed at Affirmations, an LGBTQ community resource center in Ferndale, is the latest in a series of directives signed by Whitmer, a Democrat, since she took office Jan. 1. Monday’s directive goes further than a directive signed by former Republican Gov. Rick Snyder shortly before he left office at the end of 2018.