Studio 8 Hair Lab, a hair salon in Traverse City, Michigan, is under scrutiny following a discriminatory social media post by its owner, Christine Geiger. The Michigan Department of Civil Rights has filed a charge against the salon, alleging a violation of the state’s civil rights act. The controversial Facebook post explicitly stated that individuals not identifying as either a man or a woman are unwelcome at the salon, prompting the legal action.
Content and Impact of the Post
The post, which has since been removed, conveyed a blatant disregard for non-binary individuals, suggesting they seek services at a pet groomer. It further stated that those requesting specific pronouns might be addressed as “hey you,” directly discriminating against transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals. This led to the filing of a civil rights complaint by three claimants against the salon.
Legal Proceedings and Potential Penalties
The case will be heard by an administrative law judge, who will make a recommendation to Michigan’s Civil Rights Commission. The salon could face penalties, including monetary compensation for the emotional distress and mental anguish caused by the discrimination. Further relief could entail additional fees or suspension of the business license, as deemed appropriate by the commission.
Owner’s Response and Legal Stance
Christine Geiger, the salon owner, has not publicly commented on the charge but previously filed a complaint alleging violation of her First Amendment rights. Her attorney, David DeLaney, argued that Geiger’s posts reflected her religious beliefs and did not physically prevent anyone from entering the salon. In defense of her actions, Geiger previously expressed a preference for serving clients who align with her beliefs.
Michigan’s Civil Rights Act and Protections
The Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act in Michigan prohibits discrimination in various areas, including public services, based on several protected characteristics. While sexual orientation and gender identity and expression are set to be explicitly included in February 2024, existing case law under the act currently covers these aspects under the broader category of sex discrimination.
Conclusion: Addressing Discrimination in Public Services
The case against Studio 8 Hair Lab highlights ongoing challenges faced by LGBTQ+ individuals in accessing public services without discrimination. It underscores the importance of inclusive and respectful business practices and the role of legal frameworks in safeguarding the rights of all individuals, regardless of their gender identity or expression. As the legal process unfolds, it will serve as a critical reminder of the need for tolerance and equality in all aspects of public life.