In February 2021 the ACLU of Michigan filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Michigan Supreme Court to rule that Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA) prohibits discrimination against LGBT people. Such a ruling would bring Michigan in line with the United States Supreme Court’s decision last year that the federal civil rights act also protects LGBT people from discrimination.

The issue in the case is whether ELCRA’s prohibition on discrimination “because of sex” includes a prohibition on discrimination because of sexual orientation. Two companies that are under investigation by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights for refusing to provide services to LGBT customers have sued the state, arguing that ELCRA does not prohibit discrimination against LGBT people. The lower court ruled that ELCRA does prohibit discrimination based on gender identity, but not based on sexual orientation. We are arguing that both gender identity and sexual orientation are protected under ELCRA, because it is impossible to discriminate against an individual for being gay or transgender without taking their sex into account. We are also arguing that an old Michigan Court of Appeals decision from 1998, which says that sexual orientation is not covered, should be overruled.

Our brief was joined by a coalition of thirteen state and national LGBT advocacy organizations. If the court rules in our favor, discrimination will be prohibited in employment, housing, education, and public accommodations.

(Rouch World v. Michigan Department of Civil Rights; Cooperating Attorneys Leah Litman and Dan Deacon of U-M Law School; ACLU Attorneys Jay Kaplan and Dan Korobkin.)


Defending liberty