BY: Tad T. Roumayah | IN: Employment Law
On July 28, 2022, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in a 5-2 decision that laws prohibiting sex-based discrimination, including the Michigan Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act, also ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. Following the ruling in Rouch World, LLC v. Department of Civil Rights, it is now unlawful for Michigan businesses to deny services, employment or promotion, or housing to the LGBTQ community.
The appeal revolved around the actions of two businesses that denied services to customers on religious grounds in 2019. Sturgis-based Rouch World refused to host a same-sex wedding on its premises, and Marquette-based Uprooted Electrolysis declined to provide personal services to someone undergoing a gender transition. The two incidents prompted an investigation by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, resulting in decisions adverse to the business that they then appealed all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court.
Writing for the majority, Justice Elizabeth Clement explained that sex-based discrimination should encompass sexual orientation discrimination because sexual orientation is “generally determined by reference to their own sex.”
“In other words, the determination of sexual orientation involves both the sex of the individual and the sex of their preferred partner; referring to these considerations jointly as ‘sexual orientation’ does not remove sex from the calculation.”
The Court’s ruling also applies to gender identity. For example, if someone who identifies as gender nonbinary is denied employment based on this identity, they are now protected by Michigan state law.
Dana Nessel, Michigan’s first openly gay state attorney general, called the Rouch World decision a landmark victory while emphasizing the importance of codifying these protections into state law.
“It brings tolerance,” she said in a Detroit News article. “It brings an understanding that we’re all different. It brings dignity for the nearly 500,000 who identify as LGBTQ who live here in Michigan. It also, I think, will lead to fewer hate crimes.” Before running for public office, Nessel successfully appealed the state’s same-sex marriage, leading to the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer also applauded the decision, calling it a “monumental victory that ensures our LGBTQ+ community is seen equally by state law and protected by it.”
At Sommers Schwartz, we actively support the LGBTQ community, believing diversity creates stronger, happier communities. If you have been a victim of discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity, contact us today for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights and how we will fight for you.
View all posts byTad T. Roumayah
Tad Roumayah focuses his practice primarily on employment litigation, representing employees who have encountered discrimination, retaliation, wrongful discharge, whistleblower protection claims, wage and hour violations and other employment issues and disputes.