Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act

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Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act
Seal of Michigan.svg
Michigan Legislature
  • Public Act 453 of 1976
Citation"Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act". Article 37.2101–37.2804, Act No. 453 of 1976 (PDF). Retrieved December 8, 2014.
Territorial extentMichigan
Enacted byMichigan Legislature
Signed byMichigan Governor William Milliken
SignedJanuary 13, 1977
EffectiveMarch 31, 1977
Introduced byDaisy Elliott and Melvin L. Larsen
Amended by
Act 162 of 1977, Act 153 of 1978, Act 446 of 1978, Act 610 of 1978, Act 91 of 1979, Act 93 of 1980, Act 170 of 1980, Act 202 of 1980, Act 45 of 1982, Act 512 of 1982, Act 11 of 1991, Act 70 of 1992, Act 124 of 1992, Act 258 of 1992, Act 216 of 1993, Act 88 of 1995, Act 202 of 1999, Act 348 of 2006, Act 190 of 2009
An Act to define civil rights; to prohibit discriminatory practices, policies, and customs in the exercise of those rights based upon religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status; to preserve the confidentiality of records regarding arrest, detention, or other disposition in which a conviction does not result; to prescribe the powers and duties of the civil rights commission and the department of civil rights; to provide remedies and penalties; to provide for fees; and to repeal certain acts and parts of acts.[1]
Civil rights, discrimination, housing, employment, public accommodations
Status: In force

The Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA), or Public Act 453 of 1976, prohibits discrimination in Michigan on the basis of "religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status" in employment, housing, education, and access to public accommodations.[1] A ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court on July 28, 2022 expanded the scope of the law to explicitly include protections for LGBT people.[2]

The law is named for its two primary sponsors, Daisy Elliott, a Democrat from Detroit, and Melvin L. Larsen, a Republican from Oxford, and passed in 1976 with 25 votes in the Michigan Senate and 79 votes in the Michigan House of Representatives.[3] It was signed into law by Michigan Governor William Milliken on January 13, 1977[4] and went into effect on March 31, 1977.[1]

The law also helped strengthen the role of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights,[5] formed in 1965 to support the work of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission of the 1963 Constitution of Michigan.


The Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act was passed in 1976,[3] signed into law by Michigan Governor William Milliken on January 13, 1977,[4] and went into effect on March 31, 1977.[1] It has been amended directly or indirectly nearly 20 times.[1]

Prior protections[edit]

In 1885, Michigan adopted the Public Act 130 of 1885, otherwise known as the Civil Rights Act, which stated “all persons within the jurisdiction of (the state) shall be entitled to full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of inns, restaurants, eating-houses, barber shops, public conveyances on land and water, theatres, and all other places of public accommodation and amusement”.[3][4][6] In 1890, the Michigan Supreme Court in Ferguson v. Gies relied on the Civil Rights Act in holding the “separate but equal” doctrine unconstitutional under Michigan law, over 60 years before the Supreme Court of the United States case of Brown v. Board of Education. In 1927, the Civil Rights Act survived constitutional challenge in Bolden v. Grand Rapids Operating Corporation.[4]

In the years following Bolden v. Grand Rapids Operating Corporation, Michigan passed additional civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations, housing, and employment. The progression of the state’s laws reached a new pinnacle when civil rights were given constitutional status in Michigan's Constitution of 1963, which also resulted in the formation of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission.[4]


After attempting in 1966 to pass a Michigan version of the federal civil rights law that was adopted in 1964, Michigan State Representative Daisy Elliott was told by the leadership of her political party, the Democrats, that her measure would never pass unless she found a Republican to co-sponsor it. After being newly elected, Michigan State Representative Melvin L. Larsen, a Republican from Oxford, indicated in 1973 that he would co-sponsor the law. Larsen served on the Michigan House of Representatives civil rights committee that would hold hearings and vote on the proposed legislation. Larsen has stated that his Catholic faith and experience as a principal, athletic director, football coach and instructor at one of the Pontiac Catholic schools was what motivated him to support anti-discrimination measures.[7]

The act was modeled on prior state civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations, employment, and housing but considerably extended the reach of their application and broadened the forms of discrimination prohibited.[4]

When proposed by Elliott and Larsen in 1973, the legislation faced opposition from the disabled (referred to as "handicappers" at the time) and LGBT communities because it did not include protections for members of those communities. Elliott and Larsen indicated that the legislation was meant to focus on the African American community.[3][7] When the bill passed three years later, it was believed that adding "sexual orientation" would prevent the bill from passing, so it was left out. Elliott and Larsen made the decision to proceed with the final bill after Elliott offered to add Larsen's name to the bill and consulted him on the final effort to pass the bill in 1976.[7] Most issues raised by the disabled community were also addressed in 1976 with the passage of the Michigan’s Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act.[4]

It passed with 25 votes in the Michigan Senate and 79 votes in the Michigan House of Representatives,[3] and was signed into law by Governor William Milliken on January 13, 1977.[4] The law went into effect on March 31, 1977.[1]

Effort to add protections for LGBTQ people[edit]

As early as the 1973 committee hearing on the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, members of the LGBT community in Michigan sought to be included in the law.[3][7] In 1983, Republican state representative Jim Dressel co-sponsored House Bill 5000, which would have added "sexual orientation" to the list of protected characteristics;[8] Dressel – who later came out as gay – was defeated for re-election the following year. Michigan's first openly LGBTQ state legislator, Chris Kolb, included such a change in two other pro-LGBT bills[9]—none of which passed.[10]

Since then, a number of additional bills have been introduced to add protections for the LGBTQ community. Most recently, bills to add sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression — Senate Bill 4 and House Bill 4003 — were introduced on Jan. 12, 2023 by State Senator Jeremy Moss and State Representative Laurie Pohutsky, respectively.[11][12] Moss is the first out gay Senator in Michigan history and Pohutsky is the first out bisexual woman to serve in the Michigan legislature. The issue is one of six legislative priorities for 2023 that were unveiled by Democrats in the House, Senate and Governor's Office.[13]

Although Democrats have introduced legislation amending ELCRA for many consecutive years, the last time there was significant movement — even so much as a hearing — on any bill was 2014. Then-State Representative Sam Singh, a Democrat, had introduced legislation that was inclusive of both sexual orientation and gender identity. Another bill which only included sexual orientation was introduced by Republican State Representative Frank Foster, but did not receive support from the LGBTQ community or progressives, as the bill left out members of the transgender community and did not adequately protect lesbian, gay, or bisexual people from discrimination.[14] Both bills received a hearing before the Michigan House Commerce Committee, but neither bill received a committee vote.[15]

The Michigan Supreme Court, citing the Supreme Court of the United States' decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, ruled in Rouch World, LLC. v. Department of Civil Rights that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity "necessarily constitutes discrimination because of sex."[2] This ruling extended the protections of the act to members of the LGBTQ community.


The Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act has been amended directly or indirectly nearly 20 times[1] to refine the law, its enforcement, and add protections for groups or classifications not originally named in the act such as height and weight. In 2009, Governor Jennifer Granholm signed Public Act 190 of 2009, an amendment that increased employment protections for pregnant workers. In 2019, legislation was introduced to expand the act by including sexual orientation & gender identity as protected classes.[3]

Honors and recognition[edit]

The State Bar of Michigan recognized the law at the 37th Legal Milestone dedication on August 28, 2012, at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act: Public Act 453 of 1976" (PDF). Legislative Council, State of Michigan. Retrieved December 8, 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Rouch World-OP" (PDF). Michigan Supreme Court. July 28, 2022. Retrieved July 28, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Gubbins, Roberta M. (September 17, 2012). "Legal Milestone Honors Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act". Oakland County Legal News. Retrieved December 8, 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Bowron, Aaron K. (August 2012). "The Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act: Celebrating the Progress of Michigan's Civil Rights Laws" (PDF). Michigan Bar Journal. 91 (8): 20–21.
  5. ^ Proxmire, Crystal A. (September 26, 2014). "50Years of MDCR #4: Mel Larsen...LGBT Protection..." Oakland County 115. Retrieved December 9, 2014.
  6. ^ "Civil Rights Act". Act No. 130 of 1885. Retrieved December 8, 2014.
  7. ^ a b c d Skubick, Tim (November 23, 2014). "Who is Elliott and Who is Larsen? Groundbreakers, That's Who". MLive. Booth Newspapers. Retrieved December 9, 2014.
  8. ^ Lindstrom, John (March 2013). "Remembering A Pioneering Moment In Gay Rights In The Legislature". Gongwer Michigan. Retrieved December 7, 2015.
  9. ^ Wolfe, Dawn (February 24, 2005). "Pro-LGBT Bills to Be Introduced, Kolb Seeking Co-Sponsors". Between The Lines. Livonia, MI. Retrieved December 9, 2014.
  10. ^ Miller, Justin (February 14, 2006). "Once Promising, Kolb's LGBT Bills Fizzle". The Michigan Daily. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Retrieved December 9, 2014.
  11. ^ "Senate Bill 0004 (2023)". Michigan Legislature. Retrieved January 30, 2023.
  12. ^ "House Bill 4003 (2023)". Michigan Legislature. Retrieved January 30, 2023.
  13. ^ "Speaker, Senate Majority Leader Make Priorities Known with First Bills". Michigan Senate Democrats. January 11, 2023. Retrieved January 30, 2023.
  14. ^ Brydum, Sunnivie (November 12, 2014). "Could Michigan Pass a Gay-Only Nondiscrimination Bill?". The Advocate. Retrieved December 9, 2014.
  15. ^ Oosting, Jonathan (December 3, 2014). "'Historic' Gay Rights Hearing Ends Without Vote on Michigan Anti-Discrimination Proposals". MLive. Booth Newspapers. Retrieved December 9, 2014.