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Civil Rights Commission to consider controversial change to anti-discrimination law

Michigan civil rights commission
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
The Michigan Civil Rights Commission investigates a wide range of issues, including here receiving testimony on the Flint Water Crisis.

A large crowd is expected Monday when the Michigan Civil Rights Commission is asked to revise how the word “sex” is interpreted under the state’s anti-discrimination law.

The Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Actreads:

AN ACT to define civil rights; to prohibit discriminatory practices, policies, and customs in the exercise of those rights based upon religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status.

After spending years trying to convince state lawmakers to amend the act to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity”to include protections for the LGBTQ community, Equality Michigan spokesman Nathan Triplett says the group would like the commission to expand the definition of the word “sex."   

“Agencies like the commission are asked all the time to interpret ambiguous statutes,” said Triplett.

Triplett says the commission has the power to interpret the statute.  Others disagree.

Opponents argue it’s not the commission’s place to exercise “law-making authority.”

With a much larger than normal audience expected, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission has moved its meeting from its confined offices in downtown Lansing to the Lansing Center. 

Speakers will be limited two minutes each. Even with that limitation, the meeting is expected to take several hours.

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission hearing is set to start at 4 p.m.   

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.