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Departments of Attorney General, Civil Rights File Motion to Dismiss in Studio 8 ELCRA Challenge

LANSING – Yesterday, on behalf of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR), the Department of Attorney General filed a motion to dismiss claims filed against the MDCR by Studio 8 Hair Lab, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced.  

In the summer of 2023, Studio 8 posted to their social accounts to say that, “If a human identifies as anything other than a man/woman please seek services at a local pet groomer. You are not welcome at this salon.” Studio 8 now claims these posts are protected by religious freedoms.

Multiple residents filed complaints of discrimination with the MDCR, which led to Studio 8 filing suit in the Grand Traverse Circuit Court against Traverse City and the Michigan residents who filed the complaints, allegedly seeking to challenge the constitutionality of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA). The ELCRA prohibits discrimination in public accommodations, which includes businesses that provide goods or services to the public. A business does not have to deny someone services on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression to be in violation of the law. 

In its brief in support of the motion to dismiss, the State argues that the Circuit Court is the wrong forum for this challenge, as only the Michigan Court of Claims can hear cases against the State of Michigan and its departments.   

“Under Michigan law, religious freedoms are 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,” said Nessel. “The Circuit Court has no discretion but to dismiss Studio 8’s claims against the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.” 

Studio 8 seeks to challenge the constitutionality of the ELCRA’s protections from discrimination based on gender identity and expression resulting from the decisions in the groundbreaking case Rouch World, LLC, et al v Dep’t of Civil Rights, and recent amendments enacted by the Michigan Legislature. Studio 8 argues that these new protections violate free speech and religious freedoms.   

Studio 8 also used the case in an effort to derail the MDCR’s administrative proceedings, by adding the MDCR as a party to the Circuit Court filing after the MDCR issued a charge of discrimination against Studio 8 in November 2023.   

“Studio 8’s owner has shown she has little regard for the civil rights protections enshrined in the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act,” said John E. Johnson, Jr., Executive Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. “While the First Amendment and the ELCRA incorporate religious freedoms, the posts made by Studio 8 fall outside these protections. Her blatant violation of the law cannot be allowed to continue without consequence. We are fortunate to have an Attorney General who is committed to defending civil rights whenever and wherever they are under threat.” 

It is expected that the circuit court will hear the motion in the weeks ahead.


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