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Michigan civil rights panel asks: Are LGBTQ library book bans discriminatory?

  • Michigan Civil Rights Commission seeks attorney general opinion on book bans
  • Panel asks Dana Nessel whether bans can be considered discrimination
  • Democrats recently added LGBTQ protections to civil rights law

LANSING — The Michigan Civil Rights Commission is asking Attorney General Dana Nessel for a formal legal opinion on whether school book bans can be considered a form of prohibited discrimination. 

The May 26 request has significant implications in Michigan, where parents have pushed several school districts and local libraries to consider banning LGBTQ books and other material they contend is too mature for kids. 

The commission wants Nessel to decide "whether banning and censorship of content and materials, prohibition of paraphernalia, and prevention of affiliate groups and safe spaces in educational institutions constitutes a violation of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act," Lamont Satchel, general counsel for the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, wrote in the request.


Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Democratic-led Legislature recently expanded that civil rights law by codifying court rulings that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

Nessel, a Democrat and the state's first openly gay attorney general, is a defender of LGBTQ rights. The commission is asking for her legal opinion by its next public meeting, on July 24. 

If Nessel determines that book bans do constitute a form of discrimination, the opinion could empower the Michigan Department of Civil Rights to investigate alleged violations. 

The eight-member civil rights commission, which is charged with investigating alleged discrimination, voted last month to request the opinion. The written request was published Monday by the subscription-based FOIA Services Michigan.

As Bridge Michigan has reported, schools and local governments across the state have debated books bans in recent years. 

Dearborn Public Schools, for instance, last year banned two books from its high school library, including one about a romance between the U.S. president’s bisexual son and a gay British royal, and another about a Black teen raped by her father. 

Earlier this year, Lapeer County Prosecutor John Miller considered filing criminal charges against a local public library if an LGBTQ-themed graphic novel was not removed from the shelves.

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