Tags: Rick Snyder | Michigan | religious freedom | Indiana

Mich. Gov. Snyder 'Would Veto' Standalone RFRA Legislation

Mich. Gov. Snyder 'Would Veto' Standalone RFRA Legislation
(Mike Mulholland/mlive.com/Landov)

By    |   Friday, 03 April 2015 11:22 AM

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder already knows what he'd do if a standalone religious freedom restoration bill comes to him: He'd veto it.

"Given all the events that are happening in Indiana, I thought it would be good to clarify my position," the Republican governor said Thursday, reports The Detroit Free Press. "I would veto RFRA legislation in Michigan if it is a standalone piece of legislation."

His statements marked the first time that Snyder has said he'd veto a bill even before a hearing is held, the newspaper reports. Normally, Snyder only says legislation he does not like is either not on his agenda or that he's focused on his state's economy.

And his vow for a veto does not mean that he'd reject any RFRA bill that comes across his desk. He has been saying that he will veto the bill if it comes along with an accompanying bill expanding the state's Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act, legislation that outlaws discrimination in housing and hiring, to include the LGBT community.

Further, Snyder has said he thinks there needs to be two separate bills, and not just one RFRA bill that includes language prohibiting such discrimination.

But with the outrage still climbing over neighboring Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed a week ago by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Snyder said he and others are "working hard to see if there is a better way to address religious freedom and equality."

In Indiana, Pence agreed that he will seek further legislation to ensure the RFRA law there does not discriminate on people based on their sexual orientation. The additional language, announced Thursday, amends the Indiana bill but does not include broader protections like similar legislation in other states does.

Snyder said he considers Pence a friend and a good leader, but he does not have any intention of sanctioning discrimination.

"This is an important issue from a neighboring state and given what's going on in Indiana, I wanted to give greater clarity," he said. "I believe in religious freedom, but I strongly oppose discrimination of any kind."

Michigan's business community welcomed Snyder's vow to veto a religious freedom bill.

"He's never had a social-issue focus during his administration. So that's the side he's coming from here," said Lansing political consultant Tom Shields of the Marketing Resource Group. "It's a preventative move to stop putting Michigan in the crosshairs and avoid the activity you're seeing in Indiana."

Detroit Regional Chamber CEO Sandy Baruah, meanwhile, said the governor is a "smart CEO who will be happy to avoid that mess."

However, the Michigan Catholic Conference strongly supports such legislation, and said it believes the laws are "all about protecting religious minorities and preventing government overreach," said spokesman David Maluchnik.

And Republican State Sen. Mike Shirkey, who sponsors the bill, said he'll continue to pursue it even with Snyder's veto threat.

"That's the governor's prerogative, but I intend to give him that chance," he said. "I'm not surprised, but I'm not deterred."

Shirkey said that he does give credit to Snyder for his stance about pairing the bills, but still vowed that he won't "cave to pressure."

An expansion of the state's civil rights act likely won't happen, reports The Free Press. Last year, a similar measure did not get out of committee, and House Speaker Kevin Cotter said he is not interested in taking up the matter this year. However, the House action plan does include passage of the religious freedom bill.

Actually, Michigan has three religious freedom bills under consideration. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act would allow businesses to use a religious objection defense for refusing services; another bill allows faith-based adoption agencies to reject adoptions for people whose lifestyles do not reflect their beliefs; and still another allows medical professionals and facilities to refuse services, such as abortions, that do not meet their beliefs.

The adoption bills have already passed the House and are waiting for a Senate hearing. The medical bill has not had a hearing yet, but the RFRA passed the House last year and was stalled in the Senate.

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Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder already knows what he'd do if a standalone religious freedom restoration bill comes to him: He'd veto it.
Rick Snyder, Michigan, religious freedom, Indiana
Friday, 03 April 2015 11:22 AM
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