Sunday, December 07, 2014

The 3 - December 7, 2014

In this week's edition of The 3, my week-in-review feature, legislation protecting religious freedom has advanced in the state of Michigan.  In Florida, same-sex marriage licenses could be issued just after the first of the year, as the result of Federal court action this week.  And, from Minnesota, transgender athletes can participate on the team of their choice, as the result of a vote this week.

3 - Michigan House takes important step to protect religious freedom

The Michigan House of Representatives has approved a bill that is intended to protect the religious liberties of its citizens.  It's described in a report by as a state version of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).  It passed the chamber 59-50, and now moves to the Senate for consideration,  If passed there, it will be sent to the desk of Gov. Rick Snyder.

The bill is designed to mirror the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was signed into law in 1993 by then-President Bill Clinton.  It begins by saying, "The free exercise of religion is an inherent, fundamental, and unalienable right secured by Article 1 of the state Constitution of 1963 and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution."  It then uses federal legal standards to mandate that laws cannot be used to substantially burden the religious beliefs of inhabitants, unless the law serves a compelling government interest and is only uses the least restrictive means to further that specific interest.

The article on the website points out that the proposal also allows those who believe that a law violates their religious liberty to bring a legal challenge against it, such as did companies like Hobby Lobby.   House Speaker Jase Bolger declared on Thursday before the House Judiciary Committee: "I support individual liberty and I support religious freedom."  He went on to say, "I have been horrified as some have claimed that a person’s faith should only be practiced while hiding in their home or in their church."

Bolger has faced opposition from those who state that the bill promotes discrimination. Democratic members who spoke against the RFRA specifically cited their disagreement with allowing businesses to decline homosexuals should their request violate the conscience of the owner, or allowing pharmacies to refuse to dispense abortifacients due to their religious beliefs.

Bolger said that the bill is not new at all, since it is only modeled after federal law to also ensure protections on a state level.  He declared prior to the vote, "I am asking you today to give Michigan’s law abiding citizens the same protections as Michigan’s incarcerated felons have.” 

2 - Florida marriage amendment suffers setback

The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel in Atlanta announced Wednesday that a judicial stay in Florida’s federal same-sex marriage case will expire on January 5, 2015.  According to the Florida Family Policy Council, this overturns Florida’s marriage amendment likely ensuring that same-sex couples will be allowed to receive marriage licenses in the state the following day.

Florida Family Policy Council President John Stemberger issued a statement, which said, in part:

“The court today is wrong. The court was also wrong years ago in Dred Scott when it ruled that Blacks were not persons. The courts will never have the final word on an institution as fundamental to the human experience as marriage. You simply cannot build a civilization without natural marriage.

Today, we grieve. We grieve for the children who now have no chance of growing up with both a mom and a dad. We mourn the loss of a culture and its ethical foundation. We mourn for a culture that continues to turn its back on timeless principles."

According to, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle had ruled Florida's marriage amendment defining marriage as one man and one woman unconstitutional back in August.  Hinkle said that the Florida amendment violated the "due process" and "equal protection" provisions in the U.S. Constitution. reported that Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel called the decision to allow couples to marry while the appeal is ongoing a travesty. The decision, he said, shows the judges likely are leaning the wrong way.

He said, “There’s no question that the Supreme Court will likely get involved in these decisions now,” adding, “Florida voters have a right to affirm marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and there’s no constitutional rights to same-sex marriage. There are a lot of legitimate reasons why Florida’s affirmation of one man and one woman should be upheld."

1 - Minnesota school sports authority passes new policy allowing students to play on sports team of gender with which they say they identify

We have seen this trend ramp up regarding gender identity, where young people and others are being affirmed in identifying with the opposite gender than their biological one.  This has given rise to policies such as what a sports governing board in Minnesota has just voted to implement.

According to, the new policy that will allow transgender high school students to play on the sports team of the sex in which they identify.

According to the policy, "When there is confirmation of a student's consistent and uniform gender-related identity…the student will be eligible to participate in MSHSL activities consistent with the student's gender identification for the balance of the student’s high school eligibility.”

The article says that the new set of rules has prompted concerns and criticism about safety and privacy from parents and officials.

State law already allows girls to play on boys’ teams, but some are concerned that larger biological males who identify as females could potentially harm smaller girls.

The piece says that critics also have a problem with the part of the policy that says transgender students would share showers and hotel rooms with the sex in which they identify. reported that the vote was approved by the Minnesota State High School League and will go into effect beginning in the 2015-16 school year.   It reported that the league's media specialist tweeted out, "Minnesota will become the 33rd state to implement a policy for transgender high school athletes."

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