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AG Nessel Fights for Equality During Argument Before MSC

LANSING - Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel argued before the Michigan Supreme Court (MSC) this morning that the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA) prohibits discrimination because of an individual's sexual orientation.

"I have long fought for equal treatment under the law," Nessel said. "I was proud to represent our client agency this morning, as well as the people of our vibrant state. No one should experience barriers to employment, housing, education, or public accommodations and services because of who they are or who they love."

The lawsuit, Rouch World LLC et al v Michigan Department of Civil Rights et al, was brought by businesses that denied services to customers who were either a same-sex couple or an individual who was transitioning their gender identity. In October, on behalf of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) and the director of the MDCR, Nessel filed a bypass application in the Michigan Supreme Court.

"Michigan's LGBTQ+ community deserves full protection under the law so they can live, work, and raise a family without fear of retaliation or discrimination," Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said. "I applaud Attorney General Nessel's and the Department of Civil Rights' efforts to urge the Michigan Supreme Court to recognize that the ELCRA prohibits-and has always prohibited-discrimination based on sexual orientation.  This recognition will allow Michigan to attract a strong and diverse workforce that can compete with anyone. We still have work to do to make Michigan more inclusive, but recognizing the important protections afforded to our LGBTQ+ community is a vital step in putting all Michiganders first." 

"For decades, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission has called for recognizing and protecting the civil rights of LGBTQ individuals in Michigan," MDCR Executive Director John E. Johnson Jr. said. "The Court's decision in this case will have profound consequences for the LGBTQ+ community and could signal a new era of acceptance and inclusion for our LGBTQ+ friends, neighbors and family members."

Nessel went into today's argument recognizing that she was not only representing the State, but also the LGBTQ+ community and their families.

"As we know here in Michigan, we need this law to protect the LGBTQ+ community," Fair Michigan Director of Transgender Outreach and Advocacy Julisa Abad said. "More specifically, trans women of color experience higher disparities when it comes to getting access to housing, employment and medical care. Having this change would be astronomical and lifesaving for my community."

In 2012, when Nessel was a private attorney, she filed DeBoer v. Snyder, which was one of four cases that later went to the United State Supreme Court under Obergefell v Hodges. The case resulted in the historic 2015 ruling that declared all bans on marriage for same-sex couples unconstitutional.

"I have been very privileged to have had AG Nessel as a student in my constitutional law classes at Wayne State University Law School. I have been even more privileged to have worked with her in DeBoer v. Snyder," Robert Sedler, retired Distinguished Professor of Law at Wayne State University, said. "Dana spearheaded the case, carried it through, and played a major role in its successful outcome. Today's argument is extremely important for all the people of Michigan. There has been a long history in Michigan, and elsewhere, of discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community with respect to employment, access to housing, and enjoyment of places of public accommodation. By holding that the term 'because of sex' includes sexual orientation, the Michigan Supreme Court will move Michigan a long way toward achieving full equality for everyone in our state."

The argument is archived on MSC's YouTube page.

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