11/15/23 6:20 p.m.
TRAVERSE CITY — The MDCR said they received a total of 21 complaints against Studio 8 Hair Lab. Of those, three are part of the current charge and another three are currently under investigation. The lawyer representing the owner said that these charges are without merit.
“None of the complainants went to Studio 8. None of them are clients of Studio 8. None of them were denied service in Studio 8, so now we’re in a pure speech category,” David Delaney, the attorney for Studio 8 Hair Lab, said.
Delany said Christine Geiger, who owns Studio 8 Hair Lab, said her actions should be protected under freedom of speech.
In a Facebook post made in July, Geiger said that anyone who identifies as anything other than a man or woman needs to get serviced at a local pet groomer.
“It is not about free speech. It has absolutely nothing to do with our First Amendment rights. That is a red herring designed to grab and divert our attention away from the real violations of law and Christine Geiger’s responsibilities under law,” John Jonson, the executive director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, said.
That controversial post caused a slew of complaints. And on Tuesday, the state said that post violates the Anti-Discrimination Act.
“If your sexual orientation, gender identity or expression was not on her list of what was acceptable, you could seek out the services, in her words, of a dog groomer, as it is important to say that the owner of Studio eight need not literally to have shoved someone out of her doors to be found in violation,” Johnson said.
But Delaney said this doesn’t fall under the category of discrimination.
“Speaking and conduct two different things…And they can’t equate the two. They can’t say all speech is conduct. If that were the case, then we would be seriously encroaching on our First Amendment rights and then people would not be able to say what they want on Facebook,” Delaney said.
“Be clear that it is a violation of civil rights law,” Johnson said.
Up North Pride responded with the following statement:
“I’m pleased to hear that Michigan is charging the salon. Her public comments dehumanizing our trans and non-binary communities are a disgrace. Freedom of speech is not freedom to discriminate or freedom of consequences.
We reached out to the city to get their reaction, but because a lawsuit has been filed against the city they declined to comment.
11/15/23 2:15 p.m.
TRAVERSE CITY — A local salon owner has been charged with discrimination after refusing to serve certain members of the LGBTQ community.
Back in July, the owner of Studio 8 Hair Lab, Christine Geiger, posted on Facebook that anyone who identifies other than male or female needs to get serviced at a pet groomer. The State Department of Civil Rights has now charged her with discrimination for that post.
Geiger told us in July that she was taking a stand against being forced to use preferred pronouns such as they/them, he/him and she/her.
The Civil Rights Department says this case is not about free speech because Studio 8 violated the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights act. The act prevents discrimination based on religion, race or color, and the department says Geiger advertised unlawful discrimination.
Just this year, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed into law an expansion of the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act to cover protections for sexual orientation and gender identify. In 2011, Traverse City voters also passed a non-discrimination ordinance that says no person can be discriminated against based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
There will be a court hearing to determine Studio 8′s punishment, but that date has not been released.
9&10′s Jodi Meisen will have more information on air and online tonight.