Advance Notice: Briefs

Michigan Supreme Court to hear landmark LGBTQ rights case

By: - July 6, 2021 8:09 am
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Michigan Pride, June 15, 2019 | Susan J. Demas

The Michigan Supreme Court will bypass the Court of Appeals to hear arguments on a key LGBTQ civil rights case.

In an order dated Friday that was released on Saturday, the high court said it will hear the appeal of Rouch World LLC v. Department of Civil Rights. The case will effectively determine whether Michigan’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act includes non-discrimination protections for LGBTQs.

Rouch World is a venue in Sturgis that refused to hold a same-sex wedding, citing the owners’ religious beliefs. A Court of Claims decision held that the law applies to gender identity but not sexual orientation.

The Supreme Court order was issued 4-3, with the court’s three GOP-nominated justices, Elizabeth Clement, David Viviano and Brian Zahra, dissenting. For the first time in more than a decade, the court has a Democratic-nominated majority.

In her dissent, Clement said the court last year declined to bypass the lower court with a challenge to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s use of the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act to issue health orders to stop the spread of COVID-19. Clement argued that case involved the “civil rights of all Michigan residents could indirectly be litigated.”

The high court invited the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, the American Civil Liberties Union, Affirmations LGBTQ+ Community Center, Equality Michigan, Freedom for All Americans, Human Rights Campaign, LGBT Detroit, National Center for Lesbian Rights, OutCenter of Southwest Michigan, OutFront Kalamazoo, Ruth Ellis Center, Southern Poverty Law Center, Stand With Trans and Trans Sistas of Color Project to file amicus briefs.

Briefs are to be filed by Oct. 25 and oral arguments will be scheduled for 20 minutes apiece.

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 22-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQ+ people, the state budget, the economy and more. She previously served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 90 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 5,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 80 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two kids along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.