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Hair salon bans trans folks after Supreme Court ruling endorsing discrimination

A gavel and a book that says "anti-discrimination law."
Photo: Shutterstock

The owner of a Michigan hair salon is refusing to serve some members of the LGBTQ+ community, flouting a state law banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis.

In a recent Facebook post, Christine Geiger, the owner of Studio 8 Hair Lab in Traverse City, Michigan, wrote that “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.”

Geiger added that she and her staff would refer to customers who request to be addressed by a “particular pronoun” as “hey you,” regardless of what Michigan’s H.B. 4744 states. The legislation, signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) in March, added the categories of sexual orientation and gender identity to Michigan’s 1976 Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA) banning discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodation within businesses, government buildings, and educational facilities on the basis of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, and marital status.

Studio 8 Hair Lab's original Facebook post

Geiger’s post follows the Supreme Court’s ruling in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, which said that certain business owners have the right under the First Amendment’s free speech protections to deny service on the basis of their personal beliefs. The court ruled in favor of a Christian web designer in Colorado who argued that the state’s LGBTQ+-inclusive anti-discrimination law violated her free speech rights by potentially forcing her to create wedding websites for hypothetical same-sex couples.

While some have argued that the decision narrowly applies to businesses that provide “expressive services” and does not provide carte blanche protection for any businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people, many have predicted that anti-LGBTQ+ business owners inclined to discriminate would interpret the ruling as a license to do so, despite state laws banning anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination.

The Kansas City Star reports that Studio 8 Hair Lab’s Facebook page has been deleted and its Instagram account, which describes the salon as a “private CONSERVATIVE business that does not cater to woke ideologies,” has been made private.

In a subsequent post in the Overheard in Traverse City Facebook group, Geiger responded to outrage over her initial post by claiming that she has “no issues with LGB. It’s the TQ+ that I’m not going to support.” She went on to falsely claim that the TQ+ in the acronym refers to pedophiles.

“This stance was taken to insure [sic] 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 wrote.

Studio 8 Hair Lab owner Christine Geiger's Facebook comment defending her original post

Geiger told 9&10 News that she was taking a stand against Michigan’s anti-discrimination law, which she said infringes upon her rights.

In a statement, Traverse City LGBTQ+ organization Polestar said that “Studio 8 Hair Lab’s recent comments comparing members of the queer community to animals are not welcomed in Traverse City, Period.”

“Hate has shown time and time again to be a losing business strategy and we must not allow this blight to take root in our town,” the statement continued. “Statements like the one from Studio 8 undermine the hard work that has been put in to make Traverse City the absolute best that it can be.”

Traverse City native Chasten Buttigieg, husband of out Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, also weighed in on Tuesday. “This is the kind of full-throated bigotry and ignorance many advocates and leaders have been warning would become more mainstream due to the rapid increase in homophobia and transphobia in the GOP,” he tweeted on Tuesday. “America should be moving forward, not backward. There are real problems to solve.”

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