Nessel joins SCOTUS brief arguing for LGBTQ discrimination protections

    Attorney General Dana Nessel at Michigan Pride | Susan J. Demas

    Attorney General Dana Nessel has joined 21 attorneys general in signing a U.S. Supreme Court brief arguing that federal anti-discrimination laws should protect LGBTQ employees.

    Nessel said in June that she would be filing the brief.

    The brief was filed in the Supreme Court cases of Altitude Express v. ZardaBostock v. Clayton County, Georgia; and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC, which are all being considered together by the court. The AGs argue that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination against transgender people or on the basis of sexual orientation.

    “Every Michigan resident deserves equal protection under the law,” said Nessel. “For too long we’ve allowed discriminatory practices to be carried out against members of the LGBTQ community and the idea that they could be denied an opportunity to support their families due to who they love or how they identify is appalling. What should matter is the quality of the individual’s work, not the sexual orientation or gender identity of the employee.”   

    R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC involves Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman who alleges she was fired during her transition by her Wayne County-based R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes. In 2014, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes on Stephen’s behalf. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit agreed Ms. Stephens’ termination was unlawful.

    In the brief, the coalition argues that Title VII prohibits discrimination against transgender people based on sex stereotyping or their gender identity.

    Nessel declined last month to offer an opinion to the Michigan Civil Rights Commission on former Attorney General Bill Schuette’s opinion that Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act doesn’t protect LGBTQ people due to this pending case before the U.S. Supreme Court. However, the AG’s office has said that it believes Schuette’s interpretation is incorrect.

    Nessel declines to offer opinion on Elliott-Larsen due to SCOTUS case

    The other two cases, Altitude Express v. Zarda and Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, involve employees who were terminated from their jobs after their employers learned of their sexual orientation. The attorneys general argue in their brief that Title VII’s prohibition on discrimination based on sex encompasses discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation.

    The coalition argued that employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity contributes to harassment and “blocks each state’s ability to promote equality and protect residents’ dignity, economic security and mental health.”

    The other AGs are from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

    Susan J. Demas is a 19-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, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she 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 80 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 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.


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