Why the Upcoming Michigan Supreme Court Race Is Vital to the LGBTQ+ Community 

Marketplace Story

If anyone doubts the importance of Michigan’s Supreme Court race this November, and the massive impact it can have on our state’s LGBTQ+ residents, I suggest taking a close look at some of the recent decisions the Court has handed down. Doing so will drive home the importance of this race.

Since 2022, the Michigan Supreme Court has issued favorable decisions protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ people. It also issued a new court rule that ensures transgender and gender nonbinary people are afforded the same dignity and equal access to justice given to cisgender persons in Michigan courts. Here is a summary of those decisions and court rule:

  • In Rouch World v. Michigan Department of Civil Rights, the Court held that LGBTQ+ people are covered by state civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex in employment, housing, education and public accommodations. This ruling resulted in comprehensive civil rights protections for LGBTQ+ people. It also provided the momentum for the Michigan Legislature to finally add explicit discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to our civil rights laws, making Michigan the 22nd state to do so.
  • Last year, the Court held in Pueblo v. Haas that non-biological same-sex parents, who were not married because state law had prohibited it, should now be legally recognized as a parent and that children should have the legal protections of both parents. This decision encouraged Michigan’s legislature to pass comprehensive parenthood recognition legislation this year that will result in LGBTQ+ married and unmarried couples having the same presumptions of parenthood that have been afforded to heterosexual couples under Michigan family law.
  • The Court also adopted a new rule that now requires all state court judges and their staff to address transgender and non-binary people, including attorneys, by their preferred pronouns and names. Michigan is the only state to have such a court rule. This is a far cry from the Michigan Supreme Court majority in place when the ACLU of Michigan began its LGBTQ+ Project in 2001. That Court issued decisions and took actions that:
    • Permitted local city governments to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people in employment.
    •  Interpreted Michigan’s constitutional marriage amendment to not only deny same-sex couples the right to marry, but the right to form civil unions and the right to be recognized as domestic partners.
    • Denied any form of parental recognition to non-biological parents if they were unmarried, undermining the stability of LGBTQ+ families and legal protections for their children.
    • Actively prevented same-sex couples from jointly adopting their children through second-parent adoption. 

So yes, it is crucial to vote the entire ballot in November to keep protecting, and expanding, the rights of LGBTQ+ people. That includes the state Supreme Court candidates listed under the nonpartisan section of your ballot. Before doing so, however, it is necessary to make sure that those votes are well-informed.

Paying close attention to positions held by state Supreme Court candidates is particularly significant now because of the current landscape of the federal judiciary and the U.S. Supreme Court. Proponents of LGBTQ+ rights nationwide are increasingly looking to state courts to protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination and to afford LGBTQ+ relationships and families the same recognitions and protections afforded to heterosexuals.

You can learn about the candidates and their positions here. By being an educated voter and casting a ballot for the candidates who share your values, you will further the ongoing effort to make our state a better place, not just for LGBTQ+ people, but for all Michiganders.

Jay Kaplan is staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan’s Nancy Katz & Margo Dichtelmiller LGBTQ+ Rights Project. 

This content is made possible through our partnership with ACLU of Michigan. Partnerships like these enable Pride Source to produce free, quality storytelling for the LGBTQ+ community.


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