Michigan Supreme Court rules sex discrimination ban includes sexual orientation

Is discrimination because of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity a form of discrimination “because of sex”? For over 50 years, courts interpreting laws banning discrimination because of sex said “No.” But in 2020, the Supreme Court said “Yes,” in Bostock v. Clayton County, answering the question whether a federal statute, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, would apply when employers fire a person because they are gay or trans. Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing for the court, wrote that “it is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.” He based his analysis on the plain language of the statute prohibiting discrimination against an individual because of their sex.

On July 28, Michigan’s Supreme Court interpreted the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA), which forbids discrimination because of sex, to encompass sexual orientation discrimination claims, by a vote of 5-2. While the court was not bound by legal precedent to do so, and in fact its decision overrules a 1993 ruling by the state’s court of appeals, the majority of the court found the US Supreme Court’s reasoning to be persuasive enough to justify overruling the prior Michigan precedent, perhaps the first time a state’s highest court has done so, although some lower level courts in other states have also done so.

Source: Michigan Supreme Court rules sex discrimination ban includes sexual orientation

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