In This Week’s Lansing Update:
- Senate Health Policy Committee Considers Religious Liberty Bill
- U.S. Bishops Urge Support for Federal Conscience Legislation
- U.S. Supreme Court to Decide Fate of Traditional Marriage in June
Yesterday the Michigan Senate Health Policy Committee took testimony from organizations in support and opposition to Senate Bill 136, the “Religious Liberty and Conscience Protection Act.” The legislation would protect health care payers, providers, and institutions from having to pay for or provide health care services that violate their religious beliefs.
Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) Vice President for Public Policy, Tom Hickson, testified in support of the bill: "These protections allow workers and institutions to serve the needs of others while still retaining their own religious and moral beliefs. MCC is concerned by the government's attempt to define religious ministry and limit whose religious rights are protected, which demonstrates the need for stronger and more comprehensive conscience protections to be adopted in state and federal law."
The committee did not take a vote on the bill but is expected to in the near future. SB 136 was introduced early this session after a similar bill did not receive consideration from the full House of Representatives before session ended last year.
Legislation was introduced in the U.S. Congress this week by Representative Diane Black (R-TN) and Representative John Fleming (R-LA) called the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (H.R. 940). The bill would amend the federal Affordable Care Act to protect the conscience rights of employers, insurers, and medical workers so that they do not have to pay for, sponsor, or participate in health care services they object to, including contraception, sterilization, and abortion. Archbishop William Lori, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, welcomed the introduction of the legislation and called for its “swift passage” into law. To hear personal testimonies from those in support of the legislation, click here. To date, over one thousand of MCC’s Legislative Advocacy Network participants have written their Congressperson in support of the bill. If you have not yet sent a message, please click here to do so today [Link no longer available —Ed.].
Later this month, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on two cases that will determine the future of marriage in the United States. On March 26 and 27, the Supreme Court will hear from plaintiffs and defendants on the constitutionality of California state legislation (Proposition 8) banning same-sex marriage as well as the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Traditional marriage supporters will hold a March for Marriage in Washington, DC prior to the oral arguments. Click the link above to learn more about how you can be involved.