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Grand Rapids reacts to MI Supreme Court civil rights act decision

Justices affirmed 1976 Civil Rights Act does protect against discrimination against sexual orientation
Posted at 6:10 PM, Jul 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-29 18:36:19-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The implications of Michigan's Supreme Court affirming that people are protected against discrimination based on their sexual orientation under our civil rights law will be widespread.

The state court published the decision Thursday afternoon.

Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, signed into law in 1976, protects against discrimination based on "religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status or marital status."

What that language is meant to encompass came up for debate after a lawsuit was filed against the state by an event space in Sturgis called Rouch World.

They refused to work with a same-sex couple, and were subsequently investigated by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights for doing so.

The event space decided to file a lawsuit, suggesting Michigan's civil rights act was not meant to cover sexual orientation.

Attorney General Dana Nessel argued on behalf of the department of civil rights, saying "sex" should consider someone's sexual orientation and gender identity.

“No longer will businesses, employers, retailers, educational institutions, landlords, realtors or others be permitted to discriminate against a person in Michigan based on their sexual orientation or their gender identity," Attorney General Nessel said Thursday.

“It's a day for justice, for us to celebrate equal rights and equal protection under the law for hundreds of thousands of our state residents that didn't previously enjoy that protection.”

A Grand Rapids wedding venue called The Broadway Avenue recently courted controversy when it became public that they would not be serving same-sex couples.

After 4 reports to the City of Grand Rapids' Office of Equity and Engagement, they opened an investigation into the venue for possible violations of the city's human rights ordinance.

FOX 17 reached out to the city to see if the Supreme Court's decision would impact their ongoing investigation, but have not yet heard back.

We have also reached out to an attorney for the owners of The Broadway Avenue, but have yet to hear back.

"We see people and talk to people every day that are seeking resources and help because of that discrimination, because of the way our world is,” Jazz McKinney, executive director of the Grand Rapids Pride Center, told FOX 17 Friday.

McKinney said the court decision is "not going to completely stop it... but at least now we also have legal recourse if need be.”

They say the resources of the Grand Rapids Pride Center will always be available to those in need, even as steps of progress are made.

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