WUOMFM

Religious freedom bill introduced again in new Legislature

Jan 23, 2015

Credit Matthileo / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A group of Republican state lawmakers will try again to protect religious practices against state and local government interference.

The Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) failed to pass before the legislative session ended last year.

State Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, introduced the bill again this week.

“It’s simply all about protecting and preserving the rights that the Constitution provides for all citizens – not just select groups of citizens,” he said.

Republicans have said one group the legislation may help is wedding vendors who oppose same-sex marriage for religious reasons.

“Frankly, I believe it even more important with the prospects of the (U.S.) Supreme Court ruling, for instance, this summer on how much latitude they’re going to give states in the definition and management of the (same-sex) marriage issue,” said Shirkey.

Many Democrats oppose the legislation. They say it would make it easier for people and businesses to discriminate – especially against the LGBT community.

RFRA was introduced late last year alongside legislation to add LGBT protections to the state’s civil rights law. Both bills failed to clear the Legislature before its session ended.

  

Shirkey says those two measures should stay separate this time around.

“I believe the two issues are separate and distinct and should be handled that way,” he said. “But I’m not afraid of the debate on either.”

During his State of the State address this week, Gov. Rick Snyder called on lawmakers to again debate whether the civil rights law should include LGBT protections.

New Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, has said neither RFRA nor adding LGBT protections are top priorities.