The Michigan Supreme Court has ruled
that the state's civil rights law bans discrimination on the basis of
sexual orientation and gender identity.
In a 5-2 decision handed down on
Thursday, the state's highest court said that Michigan's 1976
Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act's inclusion of the word “sex” as
a protected category extended to the LGBTQ community.
Michigan companies Rouch World and
Uprooted Electrolysis challenged the state's Civil Rights
Commission's interpretation of the law.
The companies had refused to serve
same-sex couples and transgender customers, which resulted in a state
The court's majority wrote that
“discrimination 'because of … sex' … constitutes a violation”
of the law.
Michigan's Republican-led Legislature
has previously refused to add language to the law that specifically
prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a
Democrat, said that the ruling “will save lives, protect families,
and help ensure that every Michigander is treated with dignity and
respect by law.”
The Michigan chapter of the Human
Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest LGBTQ rights advocate,
praised the ruling.
“This is a day of immense pride and
celebration,” HRC Michigan Director Amritha Venkataraman said in a
statement. “The Michigan Supreme Court ruled not only in favor of
equality, but they ruled in favor of human decency and rightful
progress. Their decision marks a historic milestone in the
advancement toward equal protection under the law for everyone in
Michigan – regardless of who you love or how you identify. During a
year when LGBTQ+ people have faced relentless attacks on our rights
across the country – we recognize the relief and joy this ruling
will bring to thousands of people whose right to receive a haircut or
be served in a coffee shop, is now assured. There may be more work to
do tomorrow, but this is a victory to celebrate today.”