TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – In July 2023, Christine Geiger, owner of Studio 8 Hair Lab in Traverse City had said that those who do not identify as a man or a woman are not welcome in her hair salon. Her Facebook post said, “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. Should you request to have a particular pronoun used please note we may simply refer to you as ‘hey you’…This is America; free speech. This small business has the right to refuse services. We are not bound to any oaths as realtors are regarding discrimination…”
Geiger also said she has a right to refuse a customer’s requests and added on Facebook, “I have no issues with the LGB…It’s the TQ+ that I’m not going to support. For those that don’t know what the + is for, it’s for MAP (Minor Attracted Person aka: pedophile) …. This is a free country and I am not a slave to any narrative.”
After her Facebook posts, in what appears to be a coordinated effort, civil rights complaints were filed with the state of Michigan in similar language, all on July 8th, by Lee Maynard of Central Lake (who identifies as a woman), Madeline Harris of Traverse City (who identifies as non-binary) and Heather Spooner of Williamsburg (who identifies as non-binary).
On October 8th, the State of Michigan Dept. of Civil Rights sent letters to Geiger concerning the three complaints saying that the “evidence gathered during the investigation” of the complaints supports the claimants’ allegations of unlawful discrimination. The correspondence also invited Geiger to participate in a conciliation conference. The City of Traverse City also started an investigation concerning whether Geiger had violated their Non-Discrimination Ordinance.
Many in the Traverse City community piled on with criticism of Geiger including Traverse City Democratic Mayor Richard Lewis who said, “We are disheartened to hear of any discriminatory behavior in our region…” Democratic State Rep. Betsy Coffia (D-Traverse City) also said that Geiger’s comments reflected “breathtaking hate and bigotry.”
Demonstrators showed up at Geiger’s salon and she also reported harassing and threatening calls and messages in addition to vandalism to her shop which she said was never criminally prosecuted.
On October 25th, Geiger filed a lawsuit in the 13th Circuit Court in Grand Traverse County against the city of Traverse City and three people named above.
In the 57-page lawsuit, obtained by Michigan News Source, it lists the causes of action as violating Geiger’s constitution rights of free speech, free press and the free exercise of religion in addition to the right to equal protection and due process.
The lawsuit states that Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel (prior to the investigation by the Commission) said the Studio 8 posts were “hateful and reprehensible” and points to those words as pre-determining that Studio 8 had violated the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act before an investigation was completed. The lawsuit also says that the words from the Traverse City mayor and Rep. Cofia show that the city had also pre-determined that Studio 8 had violated the Non Discrimination Ordinance.
Geiger’s lawsuit accuses the defendants of depriving the salon of its right to “explain its religious beliefs about the creation of male and female on the internet and website in communications with prospective clients, including why those beliefs prevent Studio 8 from celebrating and promoting anything other than the creation of male and female.”
Citing that Geiger and Studio 8’s religious convictions are under assault, the lawsuit states, “Studio 8 wants to use its talents and the expressive platform they have in Studio 8 to celebrate and promote God’s design for male and female. Studio 8 believes that God is calling to promote and celebrate His design for the creation of male and female by promoting the business for male and female.”
The lawsuit says that Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act and Traverse City’s Non-Discrimination Ordinance, takes away Geiger’s freedoms by preventing discrimination in public accommodations based on gender identity or expression and contends that “the Civil Right Commission Resolutions do not address the Constitutional rights of free speech and religion.”
The lawsuit goes on to say, “Studio 8 supports the rights of expressive businesses and their owners to express their beliefs and conduct their business in a way that promotes those beliefs and does not promote contrary beliefs…Studio 8 simply wishes to enjoy those same freedoms. Yet the CRA (Civil Rights Act) and ND (Non-Discrimination Ordinance) strips Studio 8 of these freedoms. That is the foundational reason for this lawsuit – to restore Studio 8 to an equal footing with other expressive business owners in regard to their right to express messages that are consistent with their beliefs, and to avoid expressing those messages that are not.”
Geiger was contacted by Michigan News Source about the lawsuit but did not return our request for comment.
Geiger is being represented by attorney David M. Delaney of Gaylord and the case has been assigned to Judge Kevin A. Elsenheimer with no hearings scheduled yet.