Senate Fails to Include Religious Protections in Changes to Civil Rights Law

The Michigan Senate today voted 23-15 to pass legislation that adds new categories to the state’s civil rights law without an amendment that protects religious organizations from discrimination. For weeks Michigan Catholic Conference and other faith-based organizations have urged Senate members to protect religious organizations from discrimination claims and litigation when adding sexual orientation, gender identity and expression to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. 

“We’re disappointed that members of the Senate voted today to deny constitutional rights and protections to religious organizations that hold long-standing beliefs about marriage that differs from the secular culture,” said Tom Hickson, Michigan Catholic Conference Vice President for Public Policy and Advocacy. “By failing to strike a balance and voting against amendments to ensure religious organizations are not targeted for their long-standing religious beliefs about marriage and gender differences, the Senate has signed off on creating a class of citizens against which discrimination and targeted litigation will be likely.”

Michigan Catholic Conference believes that failing to include religious protections in Senate Bill 4 will:

  • Lead to a new class of discrimination against people of faith,
  • Encourage targeting of faith-based social service, educational and charitable organizations, and
  • Force small non-profit/religious organizations into lengthy litigation in state courts.

MCC will continue to advocate for religious protections while mindful that every state in the country that has amended its civil rights law has included religious protections.  To date, more than 7,000 messages have been sent to elected officials in Lansing from Catholics across the state urging protections for religious organizations so they may continue to serve others without concern for being taken to court for exercising their beliefs in public. 

Senate Bill 4 now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.