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Posted on: December 17, 2021

[ARCHIVED] Brief Urging Michigan Supreme Court to Rule to Prohibit Sexual-Orientation Discrimination

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: December 17, 2021
Contact: 
Shruti Lakshmanan, Transition Manager

[email protected], 734-222-6620

 

Coalition of Prosecuting Attorneys Files Brief Urging Michigan Supreme Court to Rule that Michigan Civil Rights Law Prohibits Sexual-Orientation Discrimination    

 

Washtenaw, Alger, Genesee, Ingham, Kalamazoo, Marquette, Oakland, and Wayne County Prosecutors Highlight Public-Safety Benefits of Non-Discrimination

 

Ann Arbor, MI – On Friday, a group of eight elected Prosecuting Attorneys filed a brief in the Michigan Supreme Court, urging the Court to hold that Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

 

The brief was filed by Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit. Savit was joined on the brief by prosecutors Robert Steinhoff (Alger County), David Leyton (Genesee County), Carol Siemon (Ingham County), Jeffrey Getting (Kalamazoo County), Matt Wiese (Marquette County), Karen McDonald (Oakland County), and Kym Worthy (Wayne County). 

 

The brief was filed in Rouch World v. Department of Civil Rights. The prosecuting attorneys are supporting the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR)’s conclusion that the Elliott-Larsen’s prohibition on discrimination “because of sex” encompasses sexual-orientation discrimination. 

 

The plaintiffs in the case, Rouch World and Uprooted Electrolysis, have asserted—contrary to MDCR—that Elliott-Larsen does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

 

“Any way you slice it,” the brief reads, “discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is discrimination because of sex.” After all, the brief notes, “if a woman suffers adverse treatment because she is attracted to women—but a man attracted to women would not receive the same treatment—the woman has suffered discrimination ‘because of’ her female sex.”

 

The brief also emphasized the ways in which sexual-orientation discrimination undermines public safety. Discrimination in housing places LGBTQ people at greater risk of homelessness, which increases the risk that they will be victims of violence or trafficking. Discrimination in medical care prevents LGBTQ people from obtaining physical-health, mental-health, or substance-use services—all of which reduce the likelihood of crime or victimization. And discrimination in education exacerbates the risk that a young person will drop out of school. 

 

High-school dropouts, the brief emphasizes, them 3.5 times more likely to be arrested and more than 8 times as likely to be incarcerated than those who complete high school. High-school dropouts are also “far more likely to be victims of crime.” And LGBTQ students, often facing a “hostile school climate,” are approximately 3 times more likely to drop out of school than their peers.

 

Finally, the brief highlighted the “long history of sexual-orientation discrimination within the criminal legal system.” “For much of American history,” the brief noted, “same-sex relationships were criminalized—and prosecuted.” That legacy of discrimination has led many in the LGBTQ community to distrust law-enforcement. And in turn, data suggests that crimes targeting gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans “are consistently not reported.”

 

The brief highlighted the work that “many law-enforcement offices have taken” in recent years “to rebuild trust among LGBTQ communities.” But the brief urges the Court to clarify, unequivocally, that the law prohibits differential treatment in the criminal-legal system “because of sexual orientation.” 

 

“Lets there be any doubt: what the law says matters,” the brief concludes. “A clear and unequivocal ruling by this Court that Elliott-Larsen prohibits sexual-orientation discrimination will help to mend the historic distrust LGBTQ communities maintain in the criminal legal system. It will facilitate the reporting of crimes. And, in the final analysis, it will keep our communities safer.”

 

In addition to the seven other elected prosecutors, Savit was joined on the brief by Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Victoria Burton-Harris and First Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Christina Hines. The full brief is available to read at https://www.washtenaw.org/DocumentCenter/View/23627/Filed-Time-Stamped-Copy---Rouch-World-Amicus-Final?bidId=.

 

 

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