Michigan Supreme Court bans discrimination based on sexual orientation

In a 5-2 opinion, the Michigan Supreme Court held that the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act protects people from discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Last Friday, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that Michigan law precludes business, landlords, and others from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

In the case of Rouch World, LLC v. Department of Civil Rights, the owners of an event center refused to host a wedding reception for a same-sex couple based on their religious belief that marriage should only be between a man and a woman. The same-sex couple argued that the refusal violated the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (“ELCRA”) of 1976, a Michigan law that precludes discrimination based on sex.

In its opinion, the Michigan Supreme Court concluded that discrimination based on sexual orientation is discrimination based on sex given it also requires the discriminator intentionally treat an individual differently because of their sex.

“The Michigan Supreme Court is reiterating these, you know, these essential principles and finding that when you actually look at the statute…you recognize that there are protections for members of the LGBTQ community.” — Jay Kaplan, ACLU of Michigan

Listen: How the Michigan Supreme Court applied civil rights law in its ruling on discrimination based on sexual orientation.



Jay Kaplan is a staff attorney at the ACLU of Michigan. He says the Michigan Supreme Court relied upon a U.S. Supreme Court decision from 2020 when making its ruling.

“Two years ago, the United States Supreme Court held in the Bostock v Clayton County decision that when you discriminate against a gay employee for being gay or a transgender employee for being transgender, you do it because of sex,” says Kaplan. “So, what the Michigan Supreme Court — what they were deciding, they were applying that Bostock decision to our state civil rights laws.”

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