Bill Movement Last Week
All eyes were on Missouri last week as eight Senate Democrats embarked on a historic 39-hour filibuster to protest SJR 39, a resolution that would enshrine discrimination against the LGBT community in the state’s constitution. The filibuster garnered national attention and heavy hitters in the business communities, including Dow and Monsanto, came out against the resolution. Although these eight legislators intended to keep going, Senate leadership shut down the filibuster by manipulating Senate floor rules on Wednesday, March 9. Two days later, March 11, these legislators kept fighting, utilizing Senate procedure to launch six more hours of protest on the Senate floor. Unfortunately, the Senate ultimately adopted the resolution and SJR 39 moved on to the House. If the House approves the resolution, it will bypass the Governor and be placed on the ballot.
Last week, Florida passed HB 43, a Pastor Protection Act, and it was signed by Governor Rick Scott on March 10. Generally, Pastor Protection Acts prohibit the state from requiring clergy and religious institutions to perform marriages that conflict with their religious beliefs. Some Pastor Protection Acts, however, are more expansive and would also allow commercial entities owned or run by religious organizations to refuse to provide wedding-related services to couples whose marriage conflicts with their religious beliefs. As passed by the House, HB 43 was one of the more troubling and expansive bills. The Senate, however, narrowed the bill so that it more closely resembles a typical Pastor Protection Act.
SB 41 passed the legislature and is on the desk of Governor Terry McAuliffe, who is expected to veto this bill.
When originally introduced in January, this bill would have allowed anyone in the state authorized to solemnize a marriage, including government employees, to refuse to do so if it would violate their sincerely held religious belief. As it moved through the General Assembly, this bill faced many attempts to amend its language. By the time the bill wound its way through the legislature, however, it had been vastly expanded to apply to activities beyond the solemnization of marriage. As passed, individuals and religious organizations, including those receiving taxpayer funds, can ignore state and local laws that conflict with their “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman.” We wrote to Governor McAuliffe expressing our opposition to the bill.
Bills To Watch This Week
Wednesday morning, the Alabama House Health Committee will hear two bills that would allow discrimination in the name of religion. HB 158 would allow taxpayer funded adoption agencies to refuse to place children with people to whom the adoption agency has a religious objection. HB 159, would allow healthcare providers to refuse to perform health care services if it violates their conscience.
The Georgia legislative session wraps up March 23. That means it is now or never for the legislators trying to pass legislation that would sanction discrimination under the guise of religious liberty. Watch out for a push to adopt HB 757, a bill that would allow individuals, businesses, and taxpayer-funded social services organizations to refuse to adhere to any laws that conflict with their religious beliefs about marriage. If you haven’t already, now is the time to write to your representative and tell them to oppose the bill.