AG Nessel files appeal to expand protections for those affected by sexual orientation discrimination

(Office of the Michigan Attorney General)
Published: Jan. 15, 2021 at 4:35 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Attorney General Nessel has filed appeals with the Michigan Court of Appeals and the Michigan Supreme Court following December’s ruling by the Michigan Court of Claims.

Her main aim: proving that the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act protects gender identity, but does not protect against sexual orientation discrimination.

Nessel also filed a bypass application for leave before the Michigan Supreme Court.

Read the following information for a brief overview:

  • Plaintiffs in the lawsuit – Rouch World LLC et al v Michigan Department of Civil Rights et al – are businesses that can deny service to same-sex couples or transgender-identifying individuals based on religious beliefs
  • The Michigan Civil Rights Commission stated that “sex”, as defined by Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, protected sexual orientation and gender identity in 2018
  • With the understanding that “sex” could both be defined and interpreted as sexual orientation and gender identity, the commission started looking at sexual discrimination complaints that fit the description

In 2020, plaintiffs filed suit, asking the Court to rule that the commission has no place  to investigate complaints based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Also, plaintiffs stated that the commission had no right to issue the 2018 statement that sexual orientation and gender identity were covered under the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

“The highest judicial body in our country – the U.S. Supreme Court – ruled that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination, and that is case law we must not overlook in this current matter,” Nessel said. “I respectfully disagree with the Michigan Court of Claims’ recent decision, and the appeal my office filed today on behalf of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights is a sound argument for equal protection under the law for all Michigan residents – regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation.”

“We are pleased to partner with the Attorney General in this effort,” said Stacie Clayton, chair of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission. “We are confident that the court will decide – just as the Civil Rights Commission and U.S. Supreme Court did – that under ELCRA, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is prohibited in the state of Michigan.”

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