DETROIT – The Michigan Civil Rights Commission will meet this afternoon in Detroit to reconsider Equality Michigan’s (EQMI) request that the Commission take action on anti-LGBT discrimination. EQMI and thirty-seven other LGBT organizations petitioned the Commission to issue an interpretative statement concluding that the Elliott-Larsen Civil Right Act’s existing prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity. The Commission tabled the request after a last-minute intervention by the Attorney General’s office.
EQMI’s request was added to the agenda for reconsideration after thirty law professors and lawyers specializing in administrative, constitutional, and civil rights law wrote to the Commission to rebut arguments used by the Attorney General to block Commission action. In addition, three law professors will be appearing at the Commission meeting to speak on behalf of those signing the letter, to answer commissioner questions, and to urge the Commission to take action:
- Samuel Bagenstos, Frank G. Millard Professor of Law, University of Michigan Law School, former Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Justice.
- Mark Totten, Associate Professor, MSU College of Law.
- Eli Savit, Adjunct Professor, University of Michigan Law School, former law clerk to United States Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O’Connor (ret.).
“Notwithstanding the Attorney General’s politically-motivated attempt to block the Civil Rights Commission from acting to protect LGBT Michiganders from discrimination, there is no question that the Commission has both the legal authority and the moral obligation to act,” said Nathan Triplett, Equality Michigan’s Director of Public Policy. “This is about far more than just EQMI’s petition. It’s about the Commission fulfilling the responsibility assigned to it by the Michigan constitution and state law and defending its authority and independence from the Attorney General’s overreach.”
Unlike eighteen other states, Michigan does not currently have a state law that explicitly prohibits anti-LGBT discrimination in employment, housing, or public accommodations. In addition, although the federal prohibition on sex discrimination in employment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has been interpreted to encompass discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, many LGBT people in Michigan do not receive the benefit of this prohibition, because they work for employers with fewer than fifteen employees, the threshold for Title VII coverage. The interpretative statement being requested by EQMI would make it clear that anti-LGBT discrimination is unlawful in Michigan, clarifying the legal responsibilities of employers and individuals and giving notice to victims of discrimination that there are remedies available.