Michigan officials have charged a salon owner with discrimination after she said she would not serve people who identify as anything other than a man or woman.
The Michigan Department of Civil Rights on Nov. 15 charged Christine Geiger and her salon, Studio 8 Hair Lab, with discrimination after investigating complaints that were filed over Ms. Geiger’s comments.
“The truth is, based on a thorough investigation, that Studio 8 and its owner Christine Geiger, openly and repeatedly violated the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act,” John Johnson Jr., the department’s executive director, told reporters in a briefing.
The Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of certain characteristics, including religion. Implemented in 1977, it was expanded in 2023 by the state legislature and Democrat Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to cover gender identity, enshrining a 2022 Michigan Supreme Court interpretation.
Ms. Geiger posted in July on Facebook: “If a human identifies as anything other than a man/woman please seek services at a local pet groomer. You are not welcome at this salon. Period.”
She also said that salon workers might refer to people as “hey you” if they requested a particular pronoun.
In another post, Ms. Geiger said that “LGB are more than welcome” but transgender people were not.
“This stance was taken to insure that clients have the best experience and I am admitting that since I am not willing to play the pronoun game or cater to requests outside of what I perceive as normal this probably isn’t the best option for that type of client,” she said.
In a third post, Ms. Geiger said there were only two genders and said “anything else is a mental health issue.”
A woman and two people who say they are nonbinary filed complaints over Ms. Geiger’s statements, alleging they suffered from emotional distress and mental anguish.
The investigation substantiated the alleged violations of the law, Mr. Johnson said.
“Studio 8 violated the law by denying their services to specific individuals based on sex,” he told reporters.
Even if no people were turned away after going to the salon, Ms. Geiger still violated the law by advertising that some people would be, he added.
“The respondent made sure the people in her community and beyond knew her position,” he said.
The next step following the charge is for an administrative law judge to hear the case and issue a recommendation for the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, which will issue an order.
Possible repercussions include fines.
Ms. Geiger previously told the Associated Press she stood by her posts.
“I just don’t want the woke dollar,” she said, adding later, “I’d rather not be as busy than to have to do services that I don’t agree with.”
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