The Michigan Supreme Court ruled that a 1976 law banning discrimination based on “sex” includes discrimination based on sexual orientation. The 5-2 ruling in Rouch World, LLC v. Department of Civil Rights ruled that the word “sex” in the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ECLRA) refers to not only biological sex, but to sexual orientation and gender identity as well.
The ruling will ban discrimination based on whether or not a person is gay, transgender or otherwise identifies as a member of the LGBTQ+ community in education, housing, employment, public service and the use of public accomodations .
Michigan Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Clement wrote for the court’s majority.
“Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation necessarily constitutes discrimination because of sex,” the opinion read. “Accordingly, the denial of ‘the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of a place of public accommodation or public service’ on the basis of sexual orientation constitutes discrimination ‘because of…sex’ and, therefore, constitutes a violation of the ECLRA…”
Clement was joined in the court’s majority by Chief Justice Bridget McCormack and Justices Richard Bernstein, Elizabeth Welch and Megan Cavanagh. Justices Brian Zahra and David Viviano dissented.
“I take no issue with the merits of the policy adopted today by a majority of this Court,” Zahra wrote in his dissenting opinion. “I also harbor no doubt that my colleagues in the majority are acting in good faith, with pure hearts and the best intentions. Yet, under the Michigan Constitution, the Legislature…bears the ultimate responsibility to write, amend, or repeal the laws of this state. And this Court’s duty is to say what the law is, not what it thinks the law ought to be.”
Summer Managing News Editor Riley Hodder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.