Civil Rights Commission Reinforces Interpretation of Civil Rights Act to Include LGBT Community

“For the first time in the history of Michigan we have a government agency that is defying the rule of law and defying the attorney general.”

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission responded Monday after Michigan’s attorney general said the state’s civil rights laws do not extend to the LGBT community.

In May, the commission voted to expand the interpretation of the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act to protect the LGBT community.

But the opinion from Attorney General Bill Schuette invalidates that decision.

Schuette says the interpretation was not its original intent.

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission held a meeting in response to his statement at the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa in Traverse City on Monday.

The meeting lasted almost three hours, with dozens of public comments in support of the attorney general’s opinion, but ultimately the commission decided to reiterate their interpretation.

“We’re asking, ‘what is wrong with you? What are you thinking,’” a person said in public comment.

“I believe what the commission has chosen to do is to break the law,” someone in public comment said.

The Civil Rights Commission voted back in May to expand the Elliott Larsen Act’s interpretation to include the LGBT community and protect them from discrimination.

Attorney General Bill Schuette said on Friday “the commission’s interpretation conflicts with the acts plain language.”

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights executive director says they are not bound by the decision of the attorney general.

“That means that while they respect the attorney general’s opinion that was released on Friday, but it’s their opinion that it doesn’t bind them, bind the commission. Accordingly it will continue directing the department to take these cases and investigate the claims,” Agustin Arbulu, executive director for the Michigan Department of Civil Rights said.

But it’s important to note that the attorney general’s opinions are considered binding, unless a court reverses them.

“The only response that I think right now should happen is that the governor immediately needs to either tell them to start following the law or I’m going to remove you and so today I publicly call on the governor to remove these officials,” says William Wagner, president of Great Lakes Justice Center said.

When we spoke to the executive director he said it was clear that what we heard from commissioners is they were not inclined to revisit the issue and will continue taking these cases.

And we wanted to know what this decision means to the LGBT community,

Up North Pride board president says they think Schuette’s timing is transparent, just a couple weeks before primary elections.

And questions why his opinion was not made back in May when the interpretation was issued.

“It hurts we are tax paying citizens of the state that we love can’t speak for everyone, but when you have the chief prosecutor in the state saying you know what, your rights don’t matter LGBT people are not worth protecting, it honestly increases my feelings of not feeling terribly safe,” Up North Pride president Jenn Cameron said.

Schuette’s opinion does come after a request by Republican legislative leaders.

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