Sexual Orientation Protected by MI Civil Rights Law

People of LGBTQ+ community protected by Michigan Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act

In a July 2022 opinion, Rouch World v. Michigan Department of Civil Rights, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled (5-2) that the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act of 1976, which among other things prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodation “because of … sex,” extends protection to the LGBTQ+ community. Relying heavily on the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton Co. (which extended similar protection under federal anti-discrimination law), the Michigan court concluded “orientation is inextricably bound up with sex … it is impossible to discriminate against a person for their sexual orientation without discriminating against that individual based on sex.”

Two different privately owned businesses sued to challenge determinations by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights that the businesses’ refusal to provide service to members of the LGBTQ+ community based on sincerely held religious beliefs violated Elliot-Larsen. The plaintiffs pointed to an earlier decision by the Michigan Court of Appeals, Barbour v Department of Social Services, which held that the statute did not extend protection based on sexual orientation.

Overturning the 1993 appellate decision, the Court observed “developments in the law since Barbour [namely, the Bostock decision] have called into question its validity.” In dissent, Justice Zahra claimed the court overstepped its authority by stretching the legislative intent reflected in Elliot-Larsen: “[While the Rouch opinion] is a victory for a good many Michiganders … this Court’s duty is to say what the law is, not what it thinks the law ought to be.”

Following the Rouch opinion, it is unlawful in Michigan to discriminate against someone’s LGBTQ+ status in employment, renting or buying a home, public accommodation, and education contexts.

Recent Blog Posts

Happy Holly Days!

Before the Sun Sets

Transparent Time