Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder wants to avoid plunging his state into a controversy like those that occurred in Indiana and Arkansas — he’s pledged to veto any “religious freedom” bill unless it comes with companion legislation to ban discrimination against LGBT people.
“Given all the events that are happening in Indiana, I thought it would be good to clarify my position,” Snyder said Thursday, according to the Detroit Free Press. “I would veto [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] legislation in Michigan if it is a standalone piece of legislation.”
Business and tourism groups praised the move by Snyder, a Republican, “who has never said he’ll veto a bill before it even has a hearing,” the Free Press notes. “The statement was a highly unusual one from a governor who has avoided such definitive positions,” the paper adds.
Michigan has three bills pending that would allow the refusal of certain services on religious grounds, the newspaper reports. Its version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which would give businesses a religious objection defense against state-imposed penalties for discrimination, has yet to receive a hearing in this year’s legislative session. Last year a similar bill passed the House but stalled in the Senate.
Legislation that would allow faith-based adoption agencies to use religious beliefs as grounds to turn away certain prospective parents has passed the House and awaits a Senate hearing. The third bill, which would let hospitals and medical workers refuse to provide services that violate their beliefs, has yet to receive a hearing.
Last year legislation was introduced to expand the state’s civil rights law to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but it failed to get out of committee. The Free Press predicts such a measure is unlikely to pass, but an official with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Michigan affiliate found Snyder’s support encouraging.
“This is very refreshing and I think it will help him,” Shelli Weisberg, the Michigan ACLU’s legislative liaison, told the Free Press. “This will give him a chance to appeal to moderate Republicans and Democrats on this really smart policy. I hope this is the beginning of more bipartisan, commonsense policies.”