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Federal Court Judge Dismisses Lawsuits Challenging ELCRA Protections based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

LANSING – Federal Court Judge Jane Beckering yesterday denied reconsideration of the dismissal of one case and granted dismissal in two other cases challenging the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act’s (ELCRA) protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Christian Healthcare Centers, Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, and St. Joseph Parish St. Johns filed lawsuits alleging the ELCRA's sexual orientation and gender identity protections violate their constitutional religious freedoms. These lawsuits were filed against Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, Michigan Civil Rights Commission members, and the Executive Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.

The Court held in each case that these entities did not establish standing to maintain their lawsuits where the ELCRA already requires consideration of religious freedoms and there is no imminent threat that the ELCRA will be enforced against them. The Court concluded that the ELCRA does not facially fail “to recognize religious freedoms.”

“I am pleased that Judge Beckering has consistently recognized that the plaintiffs’ cases were unsupported by facts,” Nessel said. “Under Michigan law, religious freedoms are already taken into consideration under the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act when assessing discrimination claims. Our state’s residents can rest assured that Michigan’s recently enacted protections for the LGBTQ+ community will be enforced to the fullest extent as the constitution permits.”

Previously, on March 29, 2023, Judge Beckering issued an opinion and order dismissing the Christian Healthcare Centers case for lack of standing, but the Center sought reconsideration of that decision leading to yesterday’s order.

In her new dismissal, Judge Beckering again found that Christian Healthcare Centers failed to establish standing where the ELCRA properly provides that it is to be construed in conjunction with other laws where there is no past history of enforcement of the ELCRA for similar conduct. 

Christian Health and Sacred Heart have filed an appeal with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Plaintiffs have until September 21st to file any appeals.


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