Michigan Civil Rights Commission Bars LGBT Discrimination


Though same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide in 2015, it appears LGBT citizens that reside in Michigan may face legal challenges. How? Why? Well, officials claim that discrimination due to sexual orientation and gender identity is not truly covered by state law. The reality is while USA government has anti-discrimination legislation, there is no clear legal protection for all LGBT citizens nationwide which forces us to question how far do these laws actually extend? Is LGBT equally protected like any other citizen within the USA? Would extending protection rights intervene on State’s rights?

It is important to point out that Michigan does have anti-discrimination laws however these laws focus more on the protection of ‘traditional’ marriages and classes such as sex, race etc. The issue is back in 2004, over half of the Michigan voters approved an amendment that banned same-sex marriage and civil unions within their state. However, in 2014, the U.S Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples may legally marry nationwide including the state of Michigan. This ruling also included joint adoption for married same-sex couples and all other benefits given to married couples by each state.

“The lack of clarity about the meaning of sex discrimination under (Michigan’s) Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, and the Legislature’s protracted failure to act to explicitly protect LGBTQ people, leaves these Michiganders without a remedy for the wrongs they face,” Equality Michigan public policy director Nathan Triplett wrote to the commission. “The interpretative statement we are requesting will clarify a glaring legal ambiguity and give LGBTQ people access to the legal protection they deserve and to which they are entitled.”

Many activists protested and turned to the Michigan Civil Rights Commission to examine the amendment and claimed their rights are protected under the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. In 2018, the Commission decided that this act already did ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and that that refusal of housing and/or employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity is a form of discrimination.

A conservative legal group has threatened to sue, proclaiming that only the Legislature can establish true interpretations and binding laws, not an unelected board like the Commission. Last year, this same group submitted arguments to the Commission on the behalf of Republican lawmakers and claimed that the Legislature has rejected adding more classifications to the civil rights law of a total of 11 times since 1999. Mr. David Kallman’s firm is already considering countering the commission’s decision.

“The Civil Rights Commission is not the state Legislature. They do not have the authority to change state law, which is what they’re doing here. This isn’t just interpreting some word. This is adding new categories. … The last time I checked, we still have something called the separation of powers,” Kallman said.

The opposition claims that an“interpretive statement is not binding law. It would not, therefore, make LGBT discrimination ‘unlawful in Michigan,’ would not be legally binding on employers and individuals in our state and would not give any legal remedies to alleged victims of discrimination”

Regardless, the Commission remains confident and claims they made their decision based on the recent federal court decisions. It is safe to say that this issue remains unsettled.

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