Michigan Supreme Court just banned LGBTQ+ discrimination in landmark ruling

Participants, gathered in a crowd, hold up a rainbow LGBTQ+ flag during the Motor City Pride Parade at Detroit, Michigan

Michigan’s highest court ruled that the state’s anti-discrimination law protects LGBTQ+ people, marking a “monumental victory” for the queer community.

The Michigan Supreme Court, in a 5-2 ruling, said the word “sex” in the state’s 1976 Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act applies to sexual orientation as well as gender identity. This means members of the LGBTQ+ community can no longer be denied housing, fired from a job or denied services by a business in Michigan because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. 

Writing for the majority, justice Elizabeth Clement said discrimination on the “basis of sexual orientation necessarily constitutes discrimination because of sex”. 

“Regardless of whether one defines ‘sex’ expansively or narrowly, the result of the textual analysis is the same: discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation necessarily involves discrimination because of sex in violation of [state law],” the Republican judge wrote. 

Governor Gretchen Whitmer said the ruling makes Michigan “more free and fair” than it was previously. Whitmer added the decision is a “monumental victory that ensures” the LGBTQ+ community is “seen equally by state law and protected by it”.

“As a mom, a governor and proud ally of the community, I am so grateful for this ruling,” Whitmer said. “It will save lives, protect families, and help ensure that every Michigander is treated with dignity and respect by law.” 

She continued: “For too long, LGBTQ+ Michiganders had been left out of our state’s civil rights protections. 

“No longer. Because of this ruling, nobody can legally be fired from their job or evicted from their home because of who they love.”

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer holds a microphone as she stands in front of an American flag and at a podium with a sign for Joe Biden's presidential race. She is wearing a purple outfit

Governor Gretchen Whitmer says the state’s Supreme Court ruling will “help ensure that every Michigander is treated with dignity and respect by law”. (Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty)

Michigan attorney general Dana Nessel, who argued the case, said in a statement that the court’s ruling was a “long overdue” victory for LGBTQ+ residents of the state, the Detroit Free Press reported.

“Our residents deserve to live in a state that recognizes the value of diversity and rejects the notion that our own civil rights law could be used as a tool of discrimination,” Nessel wrote. “This ruling is not only a victory for the LGBTQ+ community, but for all Michigan residents, and one that’s long overdue.”

Nessel added the victory was deeply personal for her as she is a member of the LGBTQ+ communityWXYZ reported. 

“Up until yesterday I could still walk into a diner and be told they won’t serve me or my family,” she said.

The win is also personal for Marissa Jayne Wolfe, who is one of the people who filed a civil rights complaint that led to the Supreme Court ruling. 

She was denied electrolysis hair removal services in 2019 after the business claimed that participating in her “transition” process “conflicted with its sincerely held religious beliefs”, according to an appellant’s brief to the Michigan Supreme Court

Wolfe recalled feeling “disgusted”, “humiliated” and “scared for other people who would seek the same service” after the vile incident. She now felt “validated” after the Michigan Supreme Court ruling, but she said the “fight’s not over” to protect the LGBTQ+ community. 

“I want people to speak up when they do experience the discrimination and the hatred because nobody should be alone in this,” Wolfe said.