THE midwestern US state of Michigan has just passed a bill that allows healthcare discrimination against LGBTI people under the guise of “religious freedom”.
The state’s House of Representatives passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) this week, and if it passes the Senate it would enable those with “deeply-held religious beliefs” to withhold basic services from LGBTI people, inducing life-saving healthcare and medication.
“I support religious freedom. I have been horrified as some have claimed that a person’s faith should only be practiced while hiding in their home or church,” Michigan’s house speaker Jase Bolger said in a recent press statement.
“This is not a license to discriminate… People simply want their government to allow them to practice their faith in peace.”
Progress Michigan executive director Lonnie Scott disputed Bolger’s claims.
“The idea that we need to ‘restore’ religious freedom – rights that are already enshrined in the US Constitution– is a farce created by conservative lawmakers,” she said in a statement.
“This extreme bill attempts to solve a problem that does not exist, promotes discrimination and does nothing to make Michigan a better place to live.”
Others believe the bill would not stand a chance after a similar one was vetoed in Arizona earlier this year following widespread criticism and protests that it would damage the state’s economy.
Since then, same-sex marriage has been legalised in Arizona, making it the 31st US state to do so.
Forty years ago, Michigan capital East Lansing was the first city in the US to ban discrimination against gay residents.
East Lansing Mayor Nathan Triplett deemed the bill before the state’s Senate a major setback.
He told MLive that if the RFRA is passed it would “undermine some of the ordinances which, as a result of the Legislature’s inaction, will be the only protections that the LGBT residents have from discrimination”.
The upper chamber has two weeks to consider its decision to approve the new law.