On Thursday, July 29, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in a 5 to 2 decision that denial of goods, services, etc. on the basis of sexual orientation violates Michigan’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA). The majority opinion was written by Republican-nominated Justice Elizabeth Clement. The ruling significantly expands protections for the LGBTQ community as ELCRA has jurisdiction over employers of all sizes and prohibits discrimination beyond employment, in places of public accommodation, such as housing. A lower court ruling separately found the ELCRA to apply to gender identity as well.
While the ruling on Thursday and the lower court ruling were celebrated by those in the LGBTQ community and allies, the protections are not yet enshrined in law – something Democrat lawmakers, such as State Senator Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield), hope to change.
It is important to note that the Michigan Supreme Court opinion was silent on whether enforcement of the protections violated constitutional religious liberties. Groups, like the Michigan Catholic Conference, expressed concern that the ruling could pose a threat to religious liberties under the state Constitution. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey also expressed concern regarding possible infringement on “those with firmly held religious beliefs”.