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Criminal Justice & Legal System

Nessel: Civil rights panel not bound by ex-AG's LGBTQ opinion

close up of rainbow colored flag
Sharon McCutcheon

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel says the state Civil Rights Commission is not bound by her predecessor's determination that LGBTQ people are not protected by an anti-discrimination law. 

The Democrat's office provided the informal guidance to the commission Tuesday.

Bill Schuette – then state Attorney General – issued an opinion last year that said the Michigan Civil Rights Commission could not investigate complaints of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. But the commission said it would still take those cases anyway, and Nessel’s office said that’s OK.

Agustin Arbulu is the executive director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. He says this decision doesn’t change anything they’ll do.

“But it really affirms the power of the commission to issue interpretive statements,” Arbulu said.

The issue began when the Michigan Civil Rights Commission said that it would interpret the phrase “because of sex” in the Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act to apply to LGBTQ people. Lawmakers have been trying for years to formally change the act to include LGBTQ protections.

Nessel declined to issue a formal opinion because of pending litigation.

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