- Michigan Marriage Amendment Back in Effect as Appellate Court Stays Decision
- State Department Budgets Pass Subcommittees; Legislators Depart for Spring Recess
- Legislation Shortening Adoption Process Headed to Governor
- Michigan House Adopts Immigration Resolutions
- Discussion on Charitable Gaming Rules Continues
- U.S. Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments in Hobby Lobby Religious Freedom Case
Michigan Marriage Amendment Back in Effect as Appellate Court Stays Decision
As reported in last week’s Lansing Update, a U.S. district court judge regrettably struck down Michigan’s 2004 voter-approved constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Immediately after the decision, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette appealed the case to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, which this past Saturday issued a stay of the federal judge’s decision through the appeals process. Attorney General Schuette has until May 7 to file his brief, and the plaintiffs have until June 9. This week, MCC wrote an op/ed in MLive discussing the importance of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. For further information on the decision, read the Michigan Catholic bishops’ statement following the U.S. District Court’s decision.
State Department Budgets Pass Subcommittees; Legislators Depart for Spring Recess
This week, legislators met to consider several important policies and move forward on budget proposals before leaving for spring recess. Two of the policies Michigan Catholic Conference has been closely following include:
- Funding for the Tuition Grant Program, which assists low-income Michigan residents in attending independent colleges. The House Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee has granted an increase of $1.8 million for the program (bringing the total up to $33.4 million) and the Senate Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee has allocated $31.6 million. For more about the Tuition Grant program and how it can help low-income families attend an institution of higher education, click here.
- Funding for Real Alternatives, a program that connects women in unexpected pregnancies with support and services, while promoting positive alternatives to abortion. The House Department of Community Health Subcommittee, as it did last year, has recommended $700,000 for the program. The Senate Department of Community Health Subcommittee will be considering budget recommendations in the near future. Michigan Catholic Conference has written in greater detail about the Real Alternatives program, which can be read in MCC’s The Word from Lansing column.
Budget discussions in the House and Senate will continue at the end of April and in to May as lawmakers resume a regular session schedule. Funding levels between the budgets of the two chambers will later be debated and resolved in conference committees, which are made up of three members of each chamber. Expect further updates as they become available.
Legislation Shortening Adoption Process Headed to Governor
On Thursday, March 27, the Michigan House of Representatives approved the State Senate’s changes to several bills that help to streamline the adoption process. House Bills 4646–4648, supported by Michigan Catholic Conference, primarily focus on reducing the time needed to complete the adoption process for a child under one year old from six months to three months. The bills also create a time limit for a birth mother to revoke consent for an adoption and address the process if a putative father’s parental rights were not terminated. Since the bills have now passed both chambers, the measures will be sent to Governor Snyder for his signature.
Michigan House Adopts Immigration Resolutions
Two resolutions discussed in a previous Lansing Update, House Resolutions 315 and 316, were adopted on Tuesday, March 18 by the Michigan House of Representatives. Michigan Catholic Conference has indicated its support for the resolutions, which:
- Urge the president and U.S. Congress to increase the number of employment-based visas available for highly skilled advanced degree professionals to come to Detroit.
- Encourage approval of the state’s application for a regional center to expedite visas and work permits for immigrants who will create jobs and invest in Michigan.
Further action will be needed to make these policies a reality and to address the topic of immigration. For the latest news about reform at the federal level, visit the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Initiative Justice for Immigrants.
Discussions on Charitable Gaming Rules Continues
Many charitable non-profits, including organizations such as Catholic schools and Knights of Columbus councils, have held gaming events over the years to help raise funds for the poor, the disabled, and the children of Michigan. The Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) recently proposed an overhaul to state rules on charity poker events in an effort to address concerns about some inappropriate games and their activity, but the earliest versions of the proposed rules included potential negative impacts on Catholic organizations. Michigan Catholic Conference sent a letter to MGCB Director Richard Kalm about these potential impacts, including requirements about the number of volunteers that needed to be present at an event and about the new approval process to be recognized as charitable organizations through local governments. Michigan Catholic Conference was pleased that MGCB addressed those concerns through revisions to the rules, but due to strong reservations by other charitable organizations, discussion is continuing and it is expected that MGCB will issue a new set of revised rules. Further updates will be provided as they are available.
U.S. Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments in Hobby Lobby Religious Freedom Case
On Tuesday, March 25, the U.S. Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments in a case regarding religious freedom and for-profit companies, brought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood. These companies are arguing that the federal HHS mandate, which requires companies to provide contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs, violates their religious freedom rights. Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote a great blog piece on the issue, which encourages religious freedom to be recognized and upheld.
“It is wrong to penalize people — whether they sell crafts, make cabinets, or run a nursing home — for following their faith. The Greens, the Hahns, and the Little Sisters alike seek the simple goal of continuing to practice their faith in daily life, free from government conscription into a program that violates their core religious beliefs.”
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