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Michigan Supreme Court Holds Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act Protects LGBTQ Community From Discrimination

We applaud the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision in Rouch World, LLC v Dep’t of Civil Rights__Mich (July 28th, 2022), which prohibits sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination and gives LGBTQ Michiganders clear authority to seek civil liability when they are discriminated against based upon their LGBTQ status. This includes discrimination in employment, housing, education, or in places of public accommodation.

What Does This Mean?

If you have experienced discrimination in the workplace, regarding housing, at an educational institution, or in a place of business or public accommodation, Giroux Pappas Trial Attorneys can help advise you of your rights and seek justice on your behalf.

What Does the Michigan Supreme Court Decision Say?

In an opinion by Justice Elizabeth Clement, a 5-2 majority of the Michigan Supreme Court ruled on July 28, 2022 that Michigan’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act’s (“ELCRA”) prohibition on discrimination “because of . . . sex” encompasses discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. 

The action arose from the defendant Michigan Department of Civil Rights investigation into two complaints. One alleged plaintiff Rouch World discriminated on the basis of sex by declining to host a same-sex wedding at its facility. The other alleged that plaintiff Uprooted Electrolysis discriminated on the basis of sex when it denied hair-removal services to a transgender woman. These plaintiffs jointly sued the MDCR and its then director, seeking “a declaratory judgment that sexual orientation and gender identity are not encompassed by the ELCRA’s prohibition of sex discrimination in places of public accommodation and an injunction prohibiting the continued investigation of the complaints filed against plaintiffs and the MDCR’s continued adherence to Interpretive Statement 2018-1.” 

The Michigan Supreme Court decision in Rouch World, LLC v Dep’t of Civil Rights, ___ Mich ___ (July 28, 2022), follows in the footsteps of the United States Supreme Court decision in Bostock v Clayton Co, 590 US ___; 140 S Ct 1731 (2020), and likewise prohibits sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination. 

The Michigan Court of Claims ruled it was bound to follow the Michigan Court of Appeals decision in Barbour v Dep’t of Social Servs, 198 Mich App 183 (1993), which held that “the ELCRA’s discrimination prohibition did not encompass sexual orientation.” However, it granted defendants summary disposition as to plaintiff Uprooted Electrolysis, noting that “Barbour did not concern gender-identity discrimination” and relying in part on the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock. On appeal, the Michigan Supreme Court majority opinion noted that the cases on which the Court of Appeals relied in Barbour were overturned in Bostock, in which a majority “held that discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is necessarily encompassed within discrimination because of sex.” The Michigan Supreme Court found that the issue was “whether complainants who were denied service because of their sexual orientation would not have been so denied but for their sex.” It concluded that “a person’s sexual orientation necessarily implies conclusions about their sex,” and thus, discrimination “on the basis of sexual orientation necessarily constitutes discrimination because of sex. Accordingly, the denial of ‘the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of a place of public accommodation or public service’ on the basis of sexual orientation constitutes discrimination ‘because of . . . sex’ and, therefore, constitutes a violation of the ELCRA under MCL 37.2302(a).”

Justices Zahra and Viviano filed separate dissenting opinions.

For more information, please see the article in the Associated Press: 

The full text of the Michigan Supreme Court’s opinion can be found here: 

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