US: Michigan Republicans pass bill permitting discrimination against gays

PinkNews logo surrounded by illustrated images including a rainbow, unicorn, PN sign and pride flag.

Republicans in the Michigan House of Representatives have passed a bill that would permit religious people to discriminate on the grounds of sexuality.

The state’s House passed HB 5958, known as the ‘Religious Freedom and Restoration Act’ – which claims to “limit governmental action that substantially burdens a person’s exercise of religion”

The bill, which effectively exempts religious people from anti-discrimination laws, was passed along party lines, by a vote of 59-50.

It will now head to the Senate – also controlled by Republicans – and then to the state’s Republican Governor Rick Snyder. It is unlikely to face significant challenges from either.

House Speaker Jase Bolger dismissed claims the bill was actively homophobic, telling MSNBC: “Do you think that Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy were extremists?

“We modelled [this bill] directly after what they did. I’m baffled to hear that what we’re doing is out of line.”

However, civil rights experts say the bill is concerning far-reaching, and would allow people and businesses to effectively discriminate as they please on the basis of religion.

Brooke Tucker of ACLU Michigan said: “In many religions, it’s OK for a man to beat his wife.

“Based on language in this bill, all he has to say is my religion allows me to do this.”

ACLU counsel Eunice Rho added: “We are very concerned as marriage equality becomes a reality that proponents of these bills are going to regroup and pour more resources into it, and that the push will be even more aggressive.

“We’re certainly expecting [religious freedom bills] to be a very real threat in the upcoming year.”