Salon told LGBTQ customers to see pet groomer, MI officials say. Now it faces charges

A salon owner in Michigan banned certain LGBTQ customers, referring them to pet groomers instead, officials said. Now, the establishment faces a discrimination charge.

“If a human identifies as anything other than a man/woman, please seek services at a local pet groomer,” Christine Geiger, the owner of Studio 8 Hair Lab, LLC, wrote on Facebook in July, according to previous reporting from McClatchy News. “You are not welcome at this salon. Period.”

“I am not willing to play the pronoun game or cater to requests outside of what I perceive as normal” Geiger, whose salon is in Traverse City, about 140 miles north of Grand Rapids, wrote in a separate post.

After investigating multiple complaints, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights filed a formal discrimination charge against the business on Nov. 15, according to a department press release.

A person who answered the phone at the salon declined to comment on the charge when contacted by McClatchy News.

Turning away customers on the basis of sex violates Michigan civil rights law, specifically the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, passed in 1976, officials said.

The salon “openly and repeatedly” violated the act when Geiger said she would refuse services on the basis of sex — specifically gender identity, officials said.

“This is not a complicated case,” John Johnson, the executive director of the state’s Department of Civil Rights, said in the release. “It is not a case that relies on complex legal concepts or requires expansive or convoluted arguments to explain.”

The department is requesting that the salon pay compensation to complainants for “emotional distress and mental anguish.”

A hearing will be scheduled before an administrative law judge, who will determine whether discrimination occurred and what penalties, if any, should be applied.

The state’s Civil Rights Commission will then evaluate the decision and come to a final determination, which can be appealed to the circuit court, officials said.

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