LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says the term “sex” in the state’s Civil Right’s Act should not be interpreted to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Attorney General issued that opinion late Friday afternoon.
It comes after a vote by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission to create an interpretive law to change the term “sex” under the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
But the Attorney General’s office says the Commission doesn’t have the power to do that.
The Attorney General’s office says the Michigan Civil Rights Commission does not have the authority to interpret, or change, Michigan law.
That responsibility lies solely in the hands of our state’s legislature, but the Michigan Department of Civil Rights says otherwise.
“Honestly it really comes down to if any other commissions in the state of Michigan had attempted to change state law, we would have the same response,” said Andrea Bitely; Director of Communications/Government Affairs for the Michigan Attorney General.
Bitely says the opinions released by the A.G. on Friday are binding on all state government agencies.
“Which means state agencies have to follow the opinion of the Attorney General,” Bitely stated.
To break things down even further, this means sexual orientation and gender identity will not be protected under Michigan’s anti-discrimination law at least when it comes to state agencies.
This is a decision that’s facing backlash from groups like “Progress Michigan.”
“There’s never been a situation where Bill Schuette has stood up for the LGBTQ community and this ruling today, his opinion today is just continuation of that history that we’ve seen over the last 30 years,” said Sam Inglot; Deputy Communications Director for Progress Michigan.
Groups like “Equality Michigan” say quote:
“It is imperative that the Michigan Civil Rights Commission defend its interpretation as the Attorney General does not have the force of law.”
6 News spoke with the Director of the “Michigan Department of Civil Rights,” which serves under the state Civil Rights Commission, and he says right now the Commission is reviewing the A.G.’s opinion to decide on a course of action.
He also says the “Michigan Civil Rights Commission” was created under the state constitution and because of that, it has the power to interpret words.
“For example…what is the meaning of race, what is the meaning of sex, and so we have an Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act that prohibits discrimination because of sex and with regard to the word sex, the Commission interpreted that to have a certain meaning,” said Agustin Arbulu; Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.
The “Michigan Civil Rights Commission” plans to meet Monday afternoon to discuss the Attorney General’s opinion. We’ll be sure to keep you updated on what happens.