Take Action: Michigan Civil Rights Commission Meeting

BY BTL STAFF

Update on Sept. 12:

On Sept. 18, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission will consider a request to take action on anti-LGBTQ discrimination. The request was submitted by Equality Michigan and 37 other LGBTQ organizations.

Radical special interest groups supporting discrimination are mobilizing in an attempt to bully the commission into inaction. It's critical that pro-equality Michiganders make their voices heard by showing up at this meeting from 4-7 p.m. at the Lansing Center, 333 W. Michigan Avenue, Ballroom 1 in Lansing.

Persons who wish to offer public comment on the EQMI request will be limited to two minutes in order accommodate as many comments as possible. Individuals who wish to address the Commission on other civil rights issues can do so during the public comment period offered at the end of the meeting.

Original Story:

Equality Michigan on Monday asked the Michigan Civil Rights Commission to issue an interpretive statement to clarify that the prohibition against sex discrimination in the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act includes protection against discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.

In their request, EQMI pointed out that there is a lack of clarity in current law that leaves both employers and employees, landlords and tenants, and a host of others unsure of what state civil rights law covers. If accepted, it would clarify the ambiguity that exists surrounding the scope of sex discrimination currently prohibited by the ELCRA and bring Michigan law into alignment with the growing body of understanding from federal judges and legal scholars.

In order to ensure that it is considering all points of view, the Commission has asked the Michigan Department of Civil Rights to solicit public input. Now through close of business on Aug. 15, the Department will accept public comments on the EQMI request at MCRC-Comments@michigan.gov. The Commission will address the request at their Sept. 18 meeting in Lansing.

"All hardworking people should be treated fairly and equally by the laws of our state," said Stephanie White, executive director at EQMI. "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 18 other states, Michigan does not currently have a 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 15 employees, the threshold for Title VII coverage.

According to EQMI, the interpretative statement being requested 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 Nathan Triplett, director of public policy and political action at EQMI. "The Commission has the legal authority and, in light of their own factual conclusions, the moral responsibly to act on anti-LGBT discrimination."

In a press release, EQMI states if the Commission grants the coalition's request, it will be an important incremental step toward protecting LGBT 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.

Questions can be directed to Nathan Triplett, via email at ntriplett@equalitymi.org.
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