Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel argued yesterday before the Michigan Supreme Court that the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA) prohibits discrimination because of a person’s sexual orientation.
"I have long fought for equal treatment under the law," Nessel said after court. "I was proud to represent our client agency [the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR)] this morning, as well as the people of our vibrant state. No one should experience barriers to employment, housing, education, or public accommodations and services because of who they are or who they love."
The case at hand, Rouch World LLC et al v MDCR et al, was brought by businesses that denied services to customers who were either a same-sex couple or an individual who was transitioning their gender identity. The plaintiffs filed suit in 2020 claiming that the MCRC had no right to interfere because sexual identity and sexual orientation was not covered under the ELCRA. Court of Claims Judge Christopher Murray, an Engler appointee, ruled that the protections did apply on the basis of gender identity but not sexual orientation.
Rather than allow the matter to take the usual route up the judicial ladder and head to the Court of Appeals, Nessel filed a bypass application with the Michigan Supreme Court, who agreed to give the case an immediate review.
"It is not lost on me that in addition to representing our client agency before the Michigan Supreme Court, I will also be representing the LGBTQ+ community and their families in what could mark a historic and long overdue recognition of their protections from discrimination,” Nessel said in advance of her court appearance. “In Michigan's fight for civil rights, I look forward to presenting the state's argument … and remain focused on fighting for laws that properly reflect the diversity of our vibrant state and all who call Michigan home."
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a statement yesterday after Nessel’s day in court.
"Michigan's LGBTQ+ community deserves full protection under the law so they can live, work, and raise a family without fear of retaliation or discrimination," Whitmer said. "I applaud Attorney General Nessel's and the Department of Civil Rights' efforts to urge the Michigan Supreme Court to recognize that the ELCRA prohibits – and has always prohibited – discrimination based on sexual orientation.
“This recognition will allow Michigan to attract a strong and diverse workforce that can compete with anyone,” Whitmer continued. “We still have work to do to make Michigan more inclusive, but recognizing the important protections afforded to our LGBTQ+ community is a vital step in putting all Michiganders first."