A couple hundred people showed up outside the state Capitol to protest House Bill 5958, which would create a Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
“Five-nine-five-eight is a license to discriminate!” the group chanted on a march around the Capitol and through downtown Lansing.
Bob Pratt of East Lansing was one of the protesters. He says it’s aimed at enabling discrimination against LGBT people.
“There’s no reason for a bill like this. And to then call it the religious freedom bill when it really is a license to discriminate,” he said. “It’s the freedom to discriminate against people that you don’t like and then hide behind religion for it.”
The measure is supposed to shield faith-based activities from unnecessary government interference. But protester Bethany Joy Winn of Grand Rapids says she sees a different purpose:
“Giving people a sense of power in their corner to discriminate. You know, there’s already so many people using their religion to oppress people they don’t agree with. Especially the LGBT community.”
The bill passed the state House a couple weeks ago, but state Senate Republican leader says the prospects are slim for a final vote on the bill before the Legislature wraps up its “lame duck” session at the end of this week.
“Well, you know, we got these young, fresh people who just got elected that are clamoring to take on difficult issues and we took most of them off the plate over the last four years. There’s not much left for them to work on. So they might get chance at this one.”
Gov. Rick Snyder has also been cool in his support of the bill. It was originally supposed to move in tandem with a bill to add LGBT protections to Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, but the other bill was declared “dead” by House Speaker Jase Bolger because LGBT groups were unwilling to compromise on protections for transgender people.
Snyder says the uncoupling of the bills would mean “a higher level of scrutiny” should the RFRA measure reach his desk.