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Judge dismisses lawsuit seeking to bar enforcement of LGBTQ+ protections

Person waving LGBTQ pride rainbow flag in crowd
Raphael Renter
The Michigan Legislature amended the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act this year to include protections for LGBTQ+ people.

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit seeking to block enforcement of Michigan’s civil rights protections that bar discrimination against LGBTQ+ people.

The plaintiff is Christian Healthcare Centers, which is based near Grand Rapids. The group said the policies block its ability to operate as a faith-based medical services ministry. But the decision by U.S. District Court Judge Jane Beckering says the plaintiff failed to show how its religious freedoms are being violated, including specific instances of discrimination or imminent discrimination.

In the opinion and order made public Thursday, Beckering said the possibility of an enforcement action in general does not automatically confer standing for a lawsuit.

“…Plaintiff has failed to supply some indication of imminent enforcement, and mere allegations of a ‘subjective chill’ are alone insufficient to establish an injury-in-fact for standing purposes,” she said.

The judge also wrote Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act and the state’s Equal Accommodations Act do not have any religious-rights violations under federal law.

The lawsuit asked the judge to bar Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel from enforcing LGBTQ protections. The Democratic attorney general cheered the decision in a statement released by her office.

“I am pleased that Judge Beckering recognized that the ELCRA and the Equal Accommodations Act already provide for the consideration of religious freedoms when assessing discrimination claims,” Nessel said. “This ruling also recognizes that a plaintiff cannot bring speculative claims unsupported by any facts.”

A spokesperson for Christian Healthcare Centers was not immediately available for comment.

The lawsuit was filed before Michigan also expanded the language of the civil rights law to specifically include LGBTQ protections.

The decision can be appealed.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.
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