The Michigan Supreme Court leaned on a decades-old state law prohibiting sex-based discrimination this week to rule on a modern-day case involving sexual orientation bias.
On Thursday, the state's high court ruled that the definition of "sex" in Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA) — which has been on the books since 1976 — sufficiently covered the notion of sexual orientation discrimination.
Justice Elizabeth Clement offered this insight in her majority opinion.
"Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation necessarily constitutes discrimination because of sex," wrote Clement.
As such, denying an individual "full and equal enjoyment of goods, services, and public accommodations because of their sexual orientation" would be a violation of the ELCRA, Clement added.
"For too long, LGBTQ+ Michiganders had been left out of our state's civil rights protections. No longer," said Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a statement, via Twitter. "Because of this ruling, nobody can legally be fired from their job or evicted from their home because of who they love."
State attorney general Dana Nessel echoed the governor's sentiment.
"Our residents deserve to live in a state that recognizes the value of diversity and rejects the notion that our civil rights law could be used as a tool of discrimination. This ruling is not only a victory for the LGBTQ+ community, but for all Michigan residents, and one that's long overdue," Nessel tweeted Thursday.
The genesis of the case: In 2020, Rouch World, an outdoor event space approximately 10 miles north of Michigan's southern border, reportedly refused to let a lesbian couple conduct their wedding on-site.
Also, Uprooted Electrolysis did not want to serve a transgender woman for the same event.
The lawsuit prompted the Michigan Department of Civil Rights to investigate the matter. Rouch World and Uprooted Electrolysis argued the companies were entitled to deny services to LGBTQ+ people, citing "sincerely held religious beliefs."
As a counter, the state Supreme Court reasoned that sexual orientation had already been covered by ELCRA, dating back 46 years.
In doing so, the Small Business Association of Michigan asserted that Clement followed the U.S. Supreme Court's 2020 decision in Bostock v Clayton County.
The SBAM also notes the U.S. Supreme Court had already acknowledged the Title VII federal statute — which prohibits discrimination on matters of "race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), and national origin" — and how it applies to complaints of discrimination based on sexual orientation.
For his dissenting opinion, state Justice Brian Zahra acknowledged the merits of sexual orientation being covered in the Elliott-Larsen act.
However, Zahra added "this court's duty is to say what the law is, not what it thinks the law ought to be. But this is exactly what a majority of this court has done here.”
Zahra also argued that when the ELCRA became law in 1976, the public's understanding of the word "sex" was more narrow than today.
"Context and intent matter when interpreting statutes," Zahra wrote. "When read in context it becomes eminently clear that the plain and ordinary meaning of the word 'sex' in 1976 did not include sexual orientation."
© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.