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Michigan Civil Rights Commission Applauds SCOTUS Ruling that Employees Cannot Be Fired on the Basis of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity

June 15, 2020

Lansing, MI—The Michigan Civil Rights Commission has issued the following statement in response to today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that federal civil rights law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex also protects employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Today’s ruling confirms the position taken by the Commission in 2018: discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation is discrimination on the basis of sex,” said Commission Chair Stacie Clayton. “Two years ago, we issued an interpretive statement that under Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, discrimination on the basis of sex includes protection against discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. We are gratified that, at least in the area of employment, the court has now ruled that the same interpretation applies to federal law.”

In July of 2017, Equality Michigan (EQMI) requested that the Commission issue an interpretive statement on the meaning of “sex” in ELCRA. The Commission tabled a decision on the request at meetings in 2017 and 2018.

At the Commission meeting on May 21, 2018, Commissioner Alma Wheeler Smith introduced a motion to issue the interpretive statement. Six Commissioners in attendance voted on the motion, five voting in favor of issuing the interpretive statement with one abstention from Commissioner Ira Combs.

“Today’s ruling by the highest court in the land represents a significant victory in the effort to ensure the LGBTQ community is afforded the civil rights protections they deserve,” said Clayton. “But the fight for equity is not over. On Friday, the US Department of Health and Human Services erased protections for transgender patients against discrimination by health care providers. Until courts at all levels recognize and affirm the rights of LGBTQ individuals to be free of discrimination in every aspect of their lives, we have work to do.”

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission was created by the Michigan Constitution to safeguard constitutional and legal guarantees against discrimination. The Commission is charged with investigating alleged discrimination against any person because of religion, race, color or national origin, genetic information, sex, age, marital status, height, weight, arrest record, and physical and mental disability. The Michigan Department of Civil Rights serves as the operational arm of the Commission.

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