Michigan Expands LGBTQ+ Rights

Author: David B. Weisenfeld

March 22, 2023

Michigan employers may not discriminate based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression under a new law signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. This measure makes Michigan the 23rd state to explicitly prohibit such discrimination and expands the state's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

The Michigan Supreme Court had ruled last year that existing protections from discrimination based on gender included protections for sexual orientation. The ruling also left intact a lower court ruling that found gender identity also was protected in the state.

But the new measure makes those rights explicit to remove the potential for reversal by a future court. It reaffirms legal protections for sexual orientation and expands coverage to include gender identity and expression in employment, housing, public accommodations and education.

In her most recent State of the State address, Gov. Whitmer described the legislation as a way for Michigan to gain an economic advantage over other states.

"Protecting these freedoms is the right thing to do and it's just good economics," she said. "States with extreme laws are losing talent and investment because you know what? Bigotry is bad for business."

The US Supreme Court had strengthened LGBTQ+ rights with its 2020 Bostock v. Clayton County ruling, in which it held that firing an individual for being gay or transgender violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Writing for the 6-3 majority, Justice Neil Gorsuch said, "An individual's homosexuality or transgender status is not relevant to employment decisions."