LANSING, Mich. (AP) – State Attorney General Bill Schuette ruled Friday that Michigan law does not ban discrimination against LGBT people, invalidating a commission’s interpretation while declaring that only the Legislature or voters can expand the law to provide such protections.

Schuette, who is running for governor as a Republican, issued his opinion at the request of GOP legislative leaders. In May, the Civil Rights Commission began processing complaints after releasing an interpretive statement that said discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is a form of discrimination based on a person’s sex, which is outlawed under the state’s 1976 civil rights law.

Schuette wrote that while the significance of the issue “is not lost on this office, the power to change Michigan law only lies with the Legislature … or the people themselves through initiative.”

Attorney general opinions are considered binding unless reversed by a court.

Schuette’s ruling drew criticism from Democrats.

The liberal group Progress Michigan said Schuette “is siding with discrimination and bigotry,” while Democratic gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed called Schuette “Michigan’s discriminator-in-chief.”

Democrats and Republicans in the Republicans-controlled Legislature have long been at odds over expanding civil rights protections for LGBT citizens. Outside allies also have offered sharply different views on the commission’s responsibility and authority in the wake of federal rulings declaring that LGBT-based discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations is forbidden.

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