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MI Civil Rights Commission Takes Action on Anti-LGBT Discrimination

Tuesday, May 22, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Duane Breijak
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MI Civil Rights Commission Takes Action on Anti-LGBT Discrimination

In a First-In-The-Nation Decision, Michigan Civil Rights Commission Holds That Sex Discrimination Includes Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity


May 21, 2018 – Ypsilanti, MI – The Michigan Civil Rights Commission took action today to address anti-LGBT discrimination. In a vote of 5-0-1 the Commission voted to approve a motion presented by Commissioner Alma Wheeler Smith to adopt as Interpretive Statement 2018-1 that "discrimination because" includes discrimination because of gender identity and discrimination because of sexual orientation.


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.


"Equality Michigan commends the Commission for their pro-equality leadership," said Stephanie White, EQMI's Executive Director. "While we will continue to work tirelessly to see that the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act is explicitly amended to protect LGBT Michiganders, the Commission's action today has the practical effect of providing LGBT victims of discrimination with an opportunity to have their cases heard and to seek redress for the anti-LGBT discrimination that is all too common in our state." 


Erin Knott, EQMI's Political Director said, "This action is an important, incremental step toward our goal of ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Michigan."


Today's decision is of further significance because, 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. 


This interpretative statement has made it clear that anti-LGBT discrimination shall not be left unchecked in Michigan and it clarifies the legal responsibilities of employers and individuals and gives notice to victims of discrimination that there are remedies available.

EQMI’s request was reconsidered this year 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 that blocked Commission action last September. Last November, the Commission heard directly from three of the legal experts who signed 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.).

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If you or someone you know has been the victim of discrimination, please contact Equality Michigan's Department of Victim Services at 313-537-7000 x 102 or via

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