Because many state legislative sessions have ended (Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming), we can report that 13 of the so-called religious liberty bills we have been tracking are officially dead. Here is some of the big state legislative news that occurred last week and what we expect to see moving this week.
Bills that Moved Last Week
On March 21, the Nebraska committee on March 21 approved Nebraska LB 975, a bill that would allow faith-based adoption agencies to refuse to “provide, facilitate, or provide a direct referral for a child welfare service” if it conflicts with their sincerely held religious beliefs. This means that a state-funded adoption agency could refuse to place a child with a LGBT couple, even if that couple was eminently qualified. As Nebraska is a unicameral state, this bill will now proceed to a vote by the full Legislature.
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed Kansas SB 175 into law on March 22. This bill would nullify the non-discrimination policies of state colleges and universities in so far as they prohibit recognized religious student groups from discriminating in membership and leadership positions. The Kansas Senate adopted this bill last year, but the bill never made it to the full House. But last week the House adopted it on the floor on March 16. The Governor also wasted no time in signing the bill.
The Tennessee House Subcommittee on Civil Justice voted down HB 2375, a broad Pastor Protection Act on March 23. Generally such bills specify that the state may not require a religious leader or organization to solemnize marriages or provide services related to marriage ceremonies. This bill, however, could have also allowed commercial entities owned or run by religious organizations to refuse to provide any wedding related services to couples whose marriage conflicts with their religious beliefs, possibly undermining public accommodation and anti-discrimination laws.
Though this technically happened yesterday, we couldn't resist including it: Governor Nathan Deal vetoed HB 757, a "religious liberty" bill that would have sanctioned discrimination.
Bills To Watch This Week
Mississippi’s marriage bill, HB 1523, passed the Senate Committee on Judiciary on March 22. This bill would would allow state employees, corporations, individuals, healthcare providers, and nonprofit organizations to use religion as a justification to discriminate against nearly everyone—same sex couples, single mothers, divorcees, and anyone who has had sex outside of marriage. The Senate could vote on this bill on March 29.