Michigan civil rights commission tables adding LGBTQ

LANSING — Media reports on Tuesday said that the Michigan Civil Rights Commission tabled a request to add LGBTQ from the state’s ban on sex discrimination.

From MLive:

The request, put forward by Equality Michigan, asked the commission to issue an interpretative statement including protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in the confines of the current civil rights law, specifically through a ban on discrimination based on sex.

After an informal opinion from Assistant Attorney General Ron Robinson that the commission didn’t have the legal authority to fulfill that ask, the board voted unanimously to set the request aside, but voted 5-2 to request a formal opinion on the matter from the Attorney General’s office.

The decision came after hours of passionate debate, with comment from about 60 people in person and dozens more written opinions on the subject. The commission had solicited public opinions prior to the hearing as well.

“We were barred from making an interpretative statement,” commission chairwoman Rasha Demashkieh, told the Detroit Free Press, because the Attorney General’s Office said the commission didn’t have the authority to make such a statement. “I’m perturbed that we have no recourse. In my mind, discrimination is discrimination and no one should be discriminated against.”

The newspaper reported that the Civil Rights Commission investigates complaints of discrimination and a reinterpretation of the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act could give it the authority to investigate complaints on housing and job discrimination against the LGBTQ community.

Nathan Triplett, Equality Michigan‘s director of public policy, told MLive that Attorney General Bill Schuette incorrectly intervened with the commission’s authority. “They were barred from taking action today, and as a result, with the Attorney General’s intervention, the LGBT community didn’t get a fair hearing this afternoon,” he said.

Ron Robinson, an assistant in the Attorney General’s Office, told the commission that only the Legislature could reinterpret the civil rights act, the Free Press reported.

According to the Free Press, some lawmakers have introduced legislation over the years to expand the act to include a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation, but those efforts have been thwarted by Republican leadership in the House and Senate. Gov. Rick Snyder and many in the business community support the civil rights act expansion.

The decision came after two hours of testimony and hundreds of comments to the commission.