Editor's note: Schuette made right call on civil rights law
Attorney General Bill Schuette is accused of playing politics with his opinion that the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act does not protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens.
Schuette is a politician engaged in a tough campaign for governor, so it's not a stretch to think that political considerations came into play. The formal opinion will have appeal to many Republican voters.
But he still made the right call.
The issue involved whether the state Civil Rights Commission exceeded its authority in extending Elliott-Larsen to LGBTQ individuals. The law protects minorities from discrimination in employment and housing.
As originally passed by the state Legislature, it banned discrimination on the basis of race, religion and sex.
Attempts have been made in the Legislature over the years to expand the protected groups to include LGBTQ citizens, but they've failed.
The Civil Rights Commission, citing recent federal court rulings that interpreted "sex" to mean not just gender, but gender identity and sexual orientation, extended the protections without approval of the Legislature.
In doing so the commission stepped beyond its authority. Commissions are not empowered by the state constitution to make or amend laws. That's the job of lawmakers.
In this case, the Legislature has taken up the issue and refused to expand the reach of the law.
I think gays and lesbians should be covered by Elliott-Larsen, and was dismayed that a compromise that would have placed them under the act's protection fell apart.
But a commission unaccountable to voters can't and shouldn't right that wrong.
The recourse citizens have, if they disagree with where their lawmakers stand on the issue, is to elect new lawmakers.
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