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Religious freedom fight


By Lisa Brody
News Editor
...continued from page 6

"It's a debate between pragmatism and ideology," said one individual who declined to be named. "Take half a loaf, and work on the rest of the loaf."

Ironically, Foster said, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder supported a lower court ruling "that transgender would be covered under sex. So it was covered already under Elliott-Larsen legally. But we need to show the business community and the state, and people outside the state, that Michigan is tolerant, and at the end of the day, I couldn't move the bill without transgender in it through the House because Republicans wouldn't support it, and I couldn't move a bill which just included sexual orientation in it, because the Democrats wouldn't support it.

"The Religious Freedom bill was important to a number of people in the House from all over the state, and I knew that to get my bill moving, it was necessary to make it mesh or make it move in tangent with RIFR, and I made that happen with Speaker of the House Bolger. He was supportive of what I was doing but wanted to know that there would be protections for the religious with this," Foster explained. "I was trying to accomplish more tolerance with my bill, and I didn't want the Religious Freedom bill to go through without the Elliott-Larson changes, because I didn't want the bigots of the world to prevail, to have an excuse to discriminate."

The Elliott-Larsen bill was not brought before the full House for a vote.

Former Sen. Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) chose not to put the Religious Freedom bill on the lame duck agenda, noting he did not have enough votes, 20, to have it pass, although several Republican senators did request it at the time.

Governor Rick Snyder stated in 2014, and again today, he would veto any RFRA bill that came before him, as long as it was not coupled with an expansion of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

"The Governor has said he would veto the Religious Freedom bill if it came to his desk unless it was accompanied by an expansion of the Michigan Civil Rights Act," said Dave Murray, deputy press secretary for Governor Snyder. "He has numerous concerns without the added protections."

Williams of the Detroit Chamber of Commerce was pleased that a few weeks ago Sen. Jones did not bring the recent RFRA up for a vote. "I came up for the hearing because I wanted the business community's voice to be heard," he said. "Because I didn't want silence to insinuate consent. At the same time, I'm glad wiser heads prevailed. The Governor's opposition is a road block to the legislation."

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