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Commission delays LGBT bias decision, again

Nov 14, 2017

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission has tabled a request to interpret the state civil rights act to include protections for the LGBT community. The vote was 7-0, with one absent.

Yesterday was the second time since September that the commission has voted to delay a decision on a request made by Equality Michigan for an interpretation of whether sexual orientation and gender identity may be included under the state ban on sex discrimination. 

"To say that we are disappointed in this outcome would be an understatement," said Nathan Triplett, Equality Michigan's director of public policy.

"At the prior meeting, the assistant attorney general made a blanket statement that the commission lacks the authority to interpret the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act," Triplett said. 

According to Triplett, the assistant attorney general tried to intimidate the commissioners by saying they'd be personally liable for interpreting the statute against his advice.

Thirty Michigan law professors and attorneys have written or testified to the Commission that the assistant attorney general is wrong and that the commission clearly does have the authority to interpret the state civil rights law. They urged the commission to act on Equality Michigan's request for an interpretive statement about the scope of the civil rights law's ban on sex discrimination.

The immediate consequence [of the commission's vote to table] is that Michiganders who happen to be LGBT who are victims of sex discrimination, they will have their claims denied," said Triplett. "They won't receive a fair hearing. They won't receive an investigation."

According to Agustin Arbulu, director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, it is up to the commission to decide when to take up the question again, and that will require a vote of five out of eight commissioners.