Michigan Hub




Michigan's 'License to Discriminate' Bill Passes House, Moves to Senate

BolgerLate Thursday evening Michigan’s House of Representatives decided to move forward with its Religious Freedom Restoration Act (House Bill 5958) following a Republican dominated 59-50 vote. Introduced by Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger (R), House Bill 5958 would empower service providers to more effectively use their deeply held religious beliefs as a legal defense in lawsuits involving LGBT discrimination.

The bill has now been sent along for a vote on the Michigan Senate floor. Should the bill become law, the government will be required to provide "compelling justification" as to why one party’s religious beliefs should give way to another’s way of life.

Michigan Democrats have expressed their concerns that the bill will give those with conservative beliefs a free pass to openly discriminate against LGBT individuals. 

Bolger refutes claims that the law would negatively impact the LGBT community and points to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as the predecessor to House Bill 5958. Passed by President Bill Clinton in 1993, the Supreme Court eventually concluded that the law did not affect state-level statutes.

While testifying in defense of the bill, Bolger cited a number of technical instances in which the bill would protect individuals such as giving families the right to refuse autopsy on religious grounds. 

The Michigan Senate is comprised of 26 Republicans and 12 Democrats. 


Supreme Court to Consider Michigan Gay Marriage Case January 9

Scotus

On January 9, the Supreme Court is expected to consider accepting the appeal of Deboer v. Snyder, the case challenging Michigan's gay marriage ban. 

You'll recall last month, the Sixth Circuit became the first appeals court to uphold state-level bans on same-sex marriage (with the court upholding the bans in Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky). Plaintiffs in the cases promptly asked the Supreme Court to take up the anti-equality ruling and the Detroit Free Press reported at the time on why April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse's Michigan case was uniquely significant:

* There was an actual trial on the same-sex marriage issue in Michigan, whereas in other states, judges issued decisions after reading written arguments, with no cross examination of any witnesses or experts.

* Two, the Michigan plaintiffs aren't just seeking legal recognition for same-sex couples who were married in other states, but are actually fighting to make gay marriage legal in Michigan by challenging a voter-approved ban on it.

Michigan* Three, the Michigan plaintiffs also have children they are raising together — a key issue in the same-sex marriage debate. Those fighting to legalize gay marriage argue families are being harmed when same-sex parents aren't legally recognized, while traditional marriage advocates argue that children thrive best when raised by moms and dads and that it's too early to tell if same-sex parenting is a good idea or not.

* Four, the state of Michigan is actively seeking to keep same-sex marriage illegal, whereas in other states, officials have opted not to pursue appeals once a federal judge has spoken on the issue. That didn't happen at the conclusion of Michigan's same-sex marriage trial.

DOMA lawyer Mary Bonauto has also joined the Michigan legal team.


Michigan and Kentucky Plaintiffs Ask Supreme Court to Review Sixth Circuit Ruling Upholding Gay Marriage Bans

Scotus

Joining plaintiffs in Ohio and Tennessee who have filed similar petitions with the Supreme Court, the plaintiffs at the center of the cases challenging Kentucky and Michigan's gay marriage bans are asking the high court to take up the Sixth Circuit's anti-equality ruling. 

The Associated Press reports:

...Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway has declined to defend the state ban and Gov. Steve Beshear has hired private attorneys to represent the state. The Ohio appeal focuses on the state’s refusal to recognize out-of-state gay marriages because of its own ban, while the Tennessee case is narrowly focused on the rights of three same-sex couples.

Detroit Free Press reports on the significance of the April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse's Michigan case:

While it remains uncertain which case -- if any -- the U.S. Supreme Court decides to take, here are some elements that make the Michigan case unique:

* There was an actual trial on the same-sex marriage issue in Michigan, whereas in other states, judges issued decisions after reading written arguments, with no cross examination of any witnesses or experts.

* Two, the Michigan plaintiffs aren't just seeking legal recognition for same-sex couples who were married in other states, but are actually fighting to make gay marriage legal in Michigan by challenging a voter-approved ban on it.

Michigan* Three, the Michigan plaintiffs also have children they are raising together — a key issue in the same-sex marriage debate. Those fighting to legalize gay marriage argue families are being harmed when same-sex parents aren't legally recognized, while traditional marriage advocates argue that children thrive best when raised by moms and dads and that it's too early to tell if same-sex parenting is a good idea or not.

* Four, the state of Michigan is actively seeking to keep same-sex marriage illegal, whereas in other states, officials have opted not to pursue appeals once a federal judge has spoken on the issue. That didn't happen at the conclusion of Michigan's same-sex marriage trial.

DOMA lawyer Mary Bonauto has also joined the Michigan legal team. 

Here are the briefs courtesy of Equality Case Files

[photo via screenshot]


Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder Argues Sixth Circuit Ruling Invalidates Gay Marriages Performed in March

In a new brief filed in reaction to the Sixth Circuit's anti-equality ruling last week upholding Michigan's gay marriage ban, governor Rick Snyder is arguing the 300 marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples back in March are now null and void. 

The Associated Press reports:

SnyderThe 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati issued a stay on marriages March 22, but not until after 300 couples had completed the steps to be married.

Afterward, Gov. Rick Snyder said the affected couples don't have the state benefits of marriage. On Nov. 6, the court in Cincinnati upheld Michigan's ban, and those in Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

"Consequently, from a legal standpoint, because the marriages rested solely on the district court's erroneous decision, which has now been reversed, it is as if the marriages never existed, and Plaintiffs' requests for benefits attendant to a legal marriage must be denied," lawyers for the state wrote in the six-page brief.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs in Michigan's gay marriage case are expected to file briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday. The Ohio and Tennessee marriage cases have already been appealed to the high court. 

Read Snyder's brief below via Equality Case Files:


ACLU and Lambda Legal Ask Supreme Court to Review 6th Circuit Ruling Upholding Gay Marriage Bans

Scotus

As expected, the ACLU and Lambda Legal have filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the Sixth Circuit's anti-equality ruling that upheld gay marriage bans in Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, and Kentucky. 

Said Susan Sommer, Director of Constitutional Litigation for Lambda Legal via press release:

We have reached a tipping point, and the lives of thousands of same-sex spouses and their families hang in the balance. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling shines a spotlight on our divided country, where married same-sex couples are either respected or discriminated against, depending on where they live or even where they travel. As we have learned from other historic cases like Loving v. Virginia and Lawrence v. Texas, there comes a time when the U.S. Supreme Court weighs in, and provides the answer,--on the question of marriage for same-sex couples we believe that time has come.

Read the petition below via Equality Case Files:


Michigan House Speaker Proposes 'Religious Freedom' Act As Debate Over LGBT Job Protections Bill Continues

As lawmakers in Michigan debate on whether to support legislation that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (but not gender identity or expression), Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger has proposed a bill that would allow businesses to discriminate against gays based on religious beliefs. 

MLive reports:

Jase Bolger“I believe workers should be hired and fired based solely on their work ethic and their work experience,” Bolger told reporters during a media roundtable. “And nobody should be discriminated against based on their sexual orientation or their religious beliefs.” [...]

Bolger, offering an analogy, said he does not think a baker should be able to fire an employee for being gay or refuse to make a birthday cake for gay customer.

But that same baker should not be forced to make a cake for a same-sex wedding if such a union would run counter to his or her religious beliefs, according to Bolger, who said courts would ultimately draw that line.

“This does not presume an outcome, and it clearly does not provide a license to discriminate,” Bolger said. “It provides a test of balance.”

Bolger is hoping to pair both bills together, a move that has angered State Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor):

“If you’re going to act in the public space, you must act in a way that is fair and equal to all citizens regardless of skin color, national origin, religion and hopefully sexual orientation and gender expression,” Irwin said. “If they don’t believe in that compromise, they don’t believe in it. They can’t have it both ways.”

LGBT advocates, meanwhile, continue to push for a fully inclusive non-discrimiantion bill, Buzzfeed reports:

Chad griffin“A fully inclusive non-discrimination bill that covers both sexual orientation AND gender identity is the only acceptable option,” HRC president Chad Griffin said in the release. “The Human Rights Campaign and our coalition partners will oppose anything less.”

The coalition partners include state groups like the ACLU of Michigan and Equality Michigan, as well as national groups that include the American Unity Fund and Gill Action — the political arm of the prominent donor Tim Gill’s efforts.

Kirk Fordham, the executive director of Gill Action, echoed Griffin and Cook-McCormac’s remarks, writing, “We, too, support only and inclusive bill and would oppose anything less than that. We’ve made that position clear to the GOP and Democratic leaders in the state.”

The sexual orientation-exclusive bill is being introduced by Republican state Rep. Frank Foster. Foster plans on holding a hearing on the bill, along with a Democratic alternative that includes trans protections, some time after Thanksgiving. 


Trending



Towleroad - Blogged