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Michigan advocacy groups weigh in on landmark Supreme Court Case

Posted at 6:24 PM, Jun 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-16 05:24:49-04

LANSING, Mich. — Monday's Supreme Court ruling is being hailed as a landmark victory for the LGBTQ community in the middle of pride month, but Michigan advocacy groups say there's much more work to be done.

"We've been fighting for this for a long time," said Zekiye Salman with the Lansing Association for Human Rights. "This is such a much-needed win for our community but we can't stop here."

After recent legal challenges and a reversal of Obama-era protections for LGBTQ people by the Trump Administration, Salman says the news was welcomed and needed.

"We know that this just affirms and validates what LGBT communities have been fighting for and have known for so long that we should be and are now protected against employment discrimination," said Salman.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that employers don't have a right to discriminate in hiring, firing, pay, or promotion according to the 1964 Federal Civil Rights Act. Erin Knott, Executive Director of Equality Michigan says it happens all too often.

"Since marriage has been the law of the land. We have a saying here that says you can get married on Saturday and fired on Monday when your employer sees your wedding pictures on social media or someone talks about attending your wedding," said Knott.

Knott says each year, Equality Michigan tracks at least 50 cases of employment discrimination, which is why when the news broke she got to work right away calling people she knew would be affected.

Even though progress has been made on one front, Knott says there's much more to be done.

"The decision does not address access to restrooms, housing, religious exemptions, access to sports or public accommodations. but again this is a step in the right direction," said Knott.

Both Equality Michigan and The Lansing Association For Human Rights are calling for an expansion of Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include protections for LGBTQ people from discrimination.

"Today's a big step and I hope that we can leverage today's momentum and get the work done here in Michigan so that we have full protections for all LGBT Michiganders," said Knott.

"So that if there is ever a roll-back of rights at the federal level, which we have seen increasingly, that we still have those protections for our LGBT community here," said Salman.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel echoes those sentiments.

"It does not eliminate the need to amend Elliott-Larsen and it does not eliminate our need to have a specific Michigan Supreme Court case, which dictates whether or not they will follow the same interpretation of the law that we see from the United States Supreme Court in terms of Title VII 1964 Civil Rights Act," said Nessel.

"There's no question that I'm a very big believer in rights for all people and especially the more marginalized communities like the LGBTQ long before I took office I had that perspective and I'm a member of the community so this affects me and my family as well so it's incredibly important," said Nessel. "I think it's a very strong ruling and it's an important ruling. But that being the case, I think it's very important for people to know this is not the end-all when it comes to the issue of discrimination against LGBTQ people in Michigan. It's a step in the right direction no doubt, we can't be sure yet how this will impact these types of matters when it comes to Michigan residents."

Nessel says enforcement of the new ruling will be up to the state's Civil Rights Commission. They investigate complaints made against violators.

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