LANSING — LGBTQ organizations from across Michigan on Wednesday asked the Michigan Civil Rights Commission to clarify that the state’s prohibition on sex discrimination currently contained in the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity.
If accepted, it would clarify the ambiguity that exists surrounding the scope of sex discrimination currently prohibited by the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act and bring Michigan law into alignment with the growing body of understanding from federal judges and legal scholars.
“All hardworking people should be treated fairly and equally by the laws of our state,” said Equality Michigan Executive Director Stephanie White. “Most employers want to do the right thing, and many have been pro-equality leaders in Michigan, but there will always be a few people who only do what’s right when the law clearly requires it. This interpretative statement will provide that clarity to all Michiganders.”
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 today 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.
“The Michigan Civil Rights Commission has already issued a report concluding that anti-LGBT discrimination ‘exists and is significant’ in Michigan,” noted Equality Michigan Director of Public Policy Nathan Triplett. “The Commission has the legal authority and, in light of their own factual conclusions, the moral responsibly to act on anti-LGBT discrimination.”
If the Michigan Civil Rights Commission grants the coalition’s request, it will be an important incremental step toward protecting LGBTQ Michiganders from discrimination. At the same time, the organizations are agreed that the interpretation alone is not a substitute for legislative action to amend the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.
The coalition of LGBT organizations making this request includes: the ACLU of Michigan, Affirmations, the Equality Caucus of Genesee County, Equality Michigan, the Gender Identity Network Alliance, GLSEN Southeast Michigan, Grand Rapids Pride, Inclusive Justice, Jackson Pride Center, Jim Toy Community Center, Lansing Association for Human Rights, LGBT Detroit, the Michigan Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Network, the OutCenter, OutFront Kalamazoo, Perceptions, PFLAG Ann Arbor, PFLAG Clinton Township, PFLAG Detroit, PFLAG Family Reunion/Detroit, PFLAG Genesee County, PFLAG Greater Lansing, PFLAG Grosse Pointe, PFLAG Holland/Lakeshore, PFLAG Jackson, PFLAG Keweenaw, PFLAG Lenawee, PFLAG Livingston County, PFLAG Manistee, PFLAG Owosso, PFLAG Plymouth/Canton, PFLAG Port Huron, PFLAG Tri-Cities, SAGE Metro Detroit, Stand With Trans, Trans Sistas of Color, Transgender Michigan, and Up North Pride. These organizations have submitted a seven-page memorandum of law outlining the legal basis for the request.
via press release