Michigan’s Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger has been paying lip service to the LGBT community by saying that he supports expanding civil rights protects to them as long as it (a) doesn’t include transgender Michiganders and (b) is accompanied by a “license to discriminate” bill that allows anyone who wants to deny basic services to gays, lesbians, or bisexuals the ability to claim “sincerely-held religious beliefs” in order to do so.
Yesterday, a House committee essentially killed off any hopes of expanding the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA) to cover either LGB or LGBT people. Today, House Republicans moved forward with the “license to discriminate” bill anyway, voting along party lines to send it to the full House for a vote.
In other words, the LGBT community in Michigan got the worst of both worlds: no civil rights protections and, should the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) pass the House and Senate and be signed into law, a religious exemption that allows any bigot in the state to break nearly any discriminatory law on the books.
As an added plus for the Republicans, the RFRA can also be used to discriminate against basically any group. Women. People of color. People of different religions. You name it, if your “sincerely-held religious beliefs” say it’s okay, you have a hall pass to trample the rights of others. In fact, any of the groups protected by the ELCRA could face legalized discrimination now.
Here’s the scary part: this is just the beginning of the lame duck session. And next year’s crop of Republicans? They are more conservative than the current cohort.
Yup, elections have consequences, all right. Dire, backwards, regressive consequences.