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Lawsuit challenging LGBTQ civil rights is ‘purely speculative’, argues Nessel

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — A judge should dismiss a lawsuit filed by a Grand Rapids-area nonprofit that challenges Michigan’s civil rights law, which now includes protections for LGBTQ people, argues the Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

“Simply put, there is no immediate danger of harm and plaintiff’s concerns are based on speculation only,” the defendants wrote in briefs filed earlier this month in U.S. District Court. western Michigan.

Defendants argue that the lawsuit is premature and shows no “irreparable harm” or “high probability of success” – grounds for injunctive relief. Instead, Christian Healthcare Centers based its complaint on “what it fears is happening,” such as potentially forcing it to provide gender-affirming care or refer to patients by their preferred pronouns.

“At this point, the complaint contains only abstract allegations rooted in future events that may not occur at all – or may occur differently than Christian Healthcare anticipates,” the motion reads.

Christian Healthcare Centers filed a federal lawsuit in late August, a month after Michigan’s Supreme Court ruled that discrimination based on sexual orientation was illegal. The nonprofit is seeking an injunction and declaratory judgment based on the claim that the law “poses an imminent threat” to its right to operate as a religious ministry.

“It’s purely speculative,” the motion argues.

Named in the lawsuit are Nessel, who serves as civil rights law enforcement officer, Michigan Department of Civil Rights Executive Director John Johnson Jr. and the seven-member Michigan Civil Rights Commission.

Related: Christian healthcare provider sues for LGBTQ protections in Michigan civil rights law

Michigan law protects LGBTQ people from discrimination after the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in late July that the word “sex” in the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act of 1976 includes sexual orientation. The 5-2 ruling came after the state was sued by two companies who argued the state could not investigate claims of LGBTQ discrimination under the authority of a 2018 interpretative statement.

Because of this decision, Christian Healthcare says it is now necessary to provide medical treatments that do not match their belief in “the immutability of biological sex”. He also argued that the court ruling complicates his right to only hire people who share their religious beliefs because everything they do is “infused with faith”.

Related: Sexual orientation is now protected by Michigan civil rights law. What does that mean?

But the defendants note that the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act allows for religious exemptions, which “further reduces the possibility of imminent investigation and prosecution and underscores that this trial is premature.”

Christian Healthcare did not apply for this exemption.

“Plaintiff is asking this court to grant this injunction even though there are no pending civil rights complaints or investigations regarding Plaintiff’s policies, patterns or practices.” This court should reject the request for such extraordinary relief,” the defendants argued.

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission has yet to respond to the High Court’s decision. It would be “more efficient” for nonprofit health care providers to wait for an official policy to address their concerns, according to the motion.

Related: Michigan Supreme Court Rules Sexual Orientation Protected Under Civil Rights Law

Christian Healthcare says it provides medical care to everyone regardless of race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity at its two facilities in West Michigan.

He is represented by the national non-profit legal association Alliance Defending Freedom.

The Christian legal interest group has been involved in nearly 30 U.S. Supreme Court cases related to religious freedom, same-sex marriage and abortion. Alliance Defending Freedom has been deemed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its anti-LGBTQ beliefs. He responded by calling the right-wing center a “radical leftist organization.”

Alliance Defending Freedom lead attorney John Bursch has previously said the case against Nessel could set a precedent.

“It could be a decision that other courts in other states across the country seek to ensure that religious organizations can hire people who share their faith, can announce that they are trying to hire people who share their faith and that they can run their businesses. and organizations in a way that does not violate their religious beliefs,” he said.

U.S. District Judge Jane M. Beckering will now consider the complaint and motion to dismiss.

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