Here is some of the big legislative news from last week and some bills to watch for the week ahead.
Tennessee’s legislature gave its final approval to SB 1556 and sent it to the Governor. This harmful bill allows therapists and counselors to refuse to serve any client in almost any situation based on their own religious or moral beliefs. Counselors themselves strongly oppose the bill; the Governor has not decided what he will do on the measure. If you’re in Tennessee, now is the time to urge him to veto it.
In Ohio, the House Community and Family Advancement Committee held a hearing on HB 286, an overly broad “Pastor Protection Act.” Sponsors of the bill argue that it is needed to protect pastors in a church or rabbis in a synagogue from being required to perform marriage ceremonies with which they disagree. The First Amendment, however, already prevents that from happening. In addition, the bill would also go much further—it would allow religious societies that operate businesses and other places of public accommodation to discriminate. No vote was held at the hearing, but we’ll be watching for a vote in the weeks to come.
The Missouri House Emerging Issues Committee held a four and a half hour-long hearing on SJR 39 that continued past midnight on Tuesday, April 12. As you already know, SJR 39 is a constitutional amendment that would enshrine discrimination in the Missouri Constitution by allowing businesses and taxpayer-funded organizations to ignore any law that conflicts with their sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage. Late into the night, we heard moving testimony from individuals who would be personally harmed and businesses and chambers of commerce who explained how this will hurt the economy in Missouri—but notably, not a single business showed up to testify in favor of the measure. The committee will likely vote on the resolution this week.
2016 State Legislative Sessions Closing
We are pleased to report that sine die signals the end of the road this year for some very bad bills. For example, with the close of the Kentucky legislative session on April 15, we no longer have to watch several RFRA and FADA-type bills. Check our legislative tracker for updates on Tuesdays and Fridays to stay abreast of the latest.