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AG Nessel Celebrates Landmark Supreme Court Ruling Confirming LGBTQ Employees Must be Protected from Discrimination
June 15, 2020
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel today celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling that a federal civil rights law – as it relates to discrimination in employment under Title VII – protects gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender workers. She issued the following statement on the ruling and the road ahead:
“The Supreme Court’s decision today in Bostick v Clayton County, Georgia is a major victory for civil rights. In the Supreme Court’s own words, the message of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is ‘simple and momentous.’ Under Title VII, a statutory violation occurs if an employer intentionally relies in part on an individual employee’s sex when deciding to discharge the employee. In other words, under federal law, an employer cannot fire someone simply for being gay or transgender.
“But make no mistake, this is not the end of the story. It is just the beginning of the progress yet to be made on the important issue of equal protection. The Supreme Court’s decision, although groundbreaking, is relatively narrow. It involves only a federal law—Title VII—not state law. And the decision applies only to employment decisions. The Court left for another day decisions regarding housing, education, public accommodations, and anything else of the kind. And it left to future cases how religious liberty doctrines interact with Title VII. What this means is that we must continue to work together for equal protection under the law for all Michiganders.”
In July 2019, Attorney General Nessel joined a coalition of attorneys general who filed a brief in the Supreme Court cases of Altitude Express v. Zarda; Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia; and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC—which were being considered together by the court. In their brief, the coalition of 22 attorneys general argued that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination against transgender people or on the basis of sexual orientation. Nessel and her colleagues also argued that discrimination against LGBTQ employees blocks each state’s ability to promote equality and protect residents’ dignity, economic security and mental health.
Though important, today’s decision does not amend the protections afforded by the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. Ensuring that members of the LGBTQ community have equal protections under both state and federal law is still a work in progress.