Michigan Business Investigated for Declining Same-Sex Couple Sues Department of Civil Rights

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A Michigan business has sued the state’s Department of Civil Rights after it was placed under investigation for refusing to host a same-sex marriage.

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) opened an investigation into Rouch World when it received a complaint from Natalie Johnson and Megan Oswalt. The company refused to host a wedding ceremony for the same-sex couple because of the owner’s Christian view of marriage, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit argues that sexual orientation and gender identity are not protected categories under Michigan’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act and asks the courts to put a stop to the investigation.

“Our defense is pretty simple. Our Michigan law at least as it currently stands … does not include sexual orientation or gender identity as protected categories,” attorney David Kallman of Kallman Legal Group said in a statement provided to MLive.

The Civil Rights Act does include “sex” as a protected category, but the question is whether or not “sex” includes things like sexual orientation and gender identity. The lawsuit is the first case to challenge the Michigan Civil Rights Commission’s interpretation of the Civil Rights Act as including sexual orientation and gender identity.

“We’ve long expected this action and have said since the time of the Commission’s vote that the courts are the right place to ultimately decide the question. We obviously hold a different legal opinion than the individuals who filed suit. The Michigan Attorney General’s office will defend our position in court and we continue to believe the courts will decide in our favor,” a spokesperson for MDCR said in a statement.

A group called Fair and Equal Michigan recently launched a ballot initiative to expand discrimination protections for “sexual orientation and gender identity,” The Michigan Star reported.

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers approved the language of a petition submitted last month, giving Fair and Equal Michigan until May 27 to collect 340,000 signatures to force the Legislature to take up the initiative. If the Republican-controlled State Legislature does not act or approve the bill, it will then be placed on the November 3 ballot.

The ballot initiative wants to redefine “sex” to include “gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression,” and redefine “religion” to include “the religious beliefs of an individual.”

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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun and The Ohio Star. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Rouch World” by Rouch World.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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