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Grewal Law, PLLC
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The Michigan Supreme Court has ruled that sexual orientation is a protected class under the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act (“Elliot-Larsen”). This decision means that members of the LGBTQ+ community cannot be discriminated against in housing, employment, and other facets of life due to their sexual orientation.

The Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act is the Michigan statute that protects Michigan state citizens from discrimination based upon race, religion, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status and martial status. Until this decision, it was unclear if Elliot-Larsen protected individuals based upon their sexual orientation.

The underlying cases before the Supreme Court concerned two businesses who were investigated for discrimination after they refused service to individuals based upon their sexual orientation. One business, Rouch World, a park in Sturgis, MI, refused to host a same-sex marriage at their venue. The other business, Uprooted Electrolysis, a hair removal business, refused to provide service to a transgender woman. In both instances, the businesses cited their religious beliefs for refusing to provide the service to individuals based upon their sexual orientation.

The individuals who were discriminated against brought their complaints to the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (“MDCR”). There, pursuant to a directive from the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, the MDCR determined that a person’s sexual orientation cannot be the basis for refusal of service under the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act’s definition of “sex.” The businesses challenged this decision and, on appeal, were successful in arguing that Elliot-Larsen does not provide protections to individuals based upon their sexual orientation.

The Supreme Court has now provided new guidance and made a historical decision for the State of Michigan.  In a 5-2 ruling, drafted by Justice Elizabeth Clement, the Court found that sexual orientation is protected under the “sex” classification of the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act. Justice Clement specifically wrote, “The determination of sexual orientation involves both the sex of the individual and the sex of their preferred partner; referring to these considerations jointly as ‘sexual orientation’ does not remove sex from the calculation.”

This decision brings Michigan in line with the Federal protections that, following a 2020 decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, prevent discrimination based upon sexual orientation.

If you have questions regarding your rights in housing, employment, or any other protection from discrimination, please contact the attorneys at Grewal Law to protect your rights.

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