Fatal Blow to Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act?
Since last year, when former Speaker of the House Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, introduced the “Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” opponents have argued that, if the legislation becomes law, it will allow people to discriminate on a host of issues — including race. Republicans in Michigan have vehemently denied that possibility.
Now comes news out of Georgia that a former Republican state attorney general agrees with opponents on RFRA’s impacts on discrimination. Michael Bowers, forever in history for the 1986 Supreme Court ruling upholding state sodomy laws in Bowers v Hardwick, has now come out and condemned similar legislation pending before the Georgia legislature.
Bowers has been hired by Georgia Equality to analyze two RFRA bills pending in the legislature there. And his analysis is not kind for supporters who say the law would do nothing to promote discrimination.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that Bowers’s views will be released in a forthcoming white paper and quotes extensively from the document.
“It is no exaggeration that the proposed (measures) could be used to justify putting hoods back on the Ku Klux Klan. For decades, Georgia’s Anti-Mask Act has prohibited wearing masks in public.
“The law was enacted to prohibit the Ku Klux Klan from wearing hoods in public, and by extension, to discourage participation in its activities. While this statute contains exceptions for holidays, sporting events, theatrical performances and gas masks, it does not contain a religious exercise exception — because many Klansmen used religion to justify participation in the Klan.
“But the proposed (measures) would create a religious exception that was purposefully excluded. Anonymous participation in hate groups would undoubtedly rise…”
One wonders if Bowers — long hailed as an anti-gay icon — will have an impact on Michigan’s Republicans and their fixation on the need to protect so-called “religious freedom” and allow discrimination against the LGBT community. Time will tell.
Former Republican House Leader Comes Out in Support of Marriage Equality
Former Republican Majority Leader of the Michigan House of Representatives Chris Ward has denounced his former support for a marriage amendment that limits marriage to one man and one woman at a time.
“In 2004, when I served as the House Majority Leader, I voted in favor of amending our state’s constitution to ban marriage for gay and lesbian couples,” Ward wrote in an email to supporters of Michigan for Marriage. “Today, I consider this vote to be the biggest mistake of my career.”
Ward is discussing a vote — which failed — to add a ballot initiative to the ballot in 2004. Supporters were able to gather enough signatures to put the measure before voters. It was approved.
A federal court in March 2014 ruled the amendment was unconstitutional, but the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has since overturned that ruling. The case will be heard this spring at the U.S Supreme Court.
In explaining his change of heart, he noted he was divorced shortly after the vote and was subjected to questions about the disconnect between his support of banning same-sex marriage and the failure of his own marriage.
“It was an inconsistency, an injustice,” he told the Lansing State Journal last week. “If you’ve come to the conclusion that this is something people are born with, and I don’t think there’s even an argument there, then I don’t think you can in the long term be comfortable with this, treating other people this way.”
A Felon And Mitt Romney’s Niece To Lead MIGOP
Michigan’s Grand Old Party elected new leaders this weekend. Ronna Romney McDaniel will lead the party as the new chair, and Darwin Jiles Jr. was selected as the ethnic vice chair.
McDaniel is the niece of former presidential candidate Mitt Romney and was a committee woman from the state of Michigan to the national GOP. She will resign that post as she takes up the reigns of the Michigan party from developer Bobby Schostak. McDaniel won the position on the first ballot this weekend, after a pitched battle in the party between herself and Norm Hughes. Hughes, a tea party favorite, touted his experience from the Reagan campaign and administration in his bid. For her part, McDaniel appears to have bridged some of the gaps between the tea party and establishment, business-oriented GOP. How long that will last is unclear.
But shortly after her selection, she extended an olive branch to the tea party side of the GOP family. As Political Hors D’ouevres has been reporting for months, Dave Agema, the erstwhile GOP national committeeman, has been in hot water over anti-gay and racist posts on Facebook. That’s led to a host of GOP figures calling for his resignation, including outgoing party boss Schostak and a formal rebuke by the national committee itself. But McDaniel says she’ll have no part of that fight.
“Dave and I have had private conversations; I’m going to keep them private,” McDaniel told the Detroit Free Press. “There is no mechanism for removal. He’s not going to step down, so we’re going to move forward.”
Meanwhile, Jiles, who was elected to the post of ethnic vice chair with the support of Dave Agema, is coming under scrutiny for his felony convictions. Chad Selweski, formerly of the Macomb Daily and now reporting on his own blog Macombpolitics.blogspot.com, reports Jiles has been convicted of two gun related crimes.
In 2001, Jiles pleaded no contest to a lesser charge of assault with intent to do great bodily harm. He was 15 at the time, and it was part of a plea deal involving the charges: assault with intent to murder, one count of illegally carrying a concealed weapon and one count of using a gun in the commission of a felony. Those charges were out of Flint.
In February 2014, Jiles was once again in front of a court — charged with another gun related crime. This time, in Oakland County Circuit Court, Jiles faced a count of assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder. Jiles shot another person in a trailer park after an argument.
Selweski raises some important questions about the February 2014 situation. Federal law prohibits a person convicted of a felony from owning or purchasing a gun or ammunition. How did Jiles purchase and legally license the gun he used to shoot the person in the trailer park?
Also of note from this weekend’s GOP convention:
Tom McMillin, the conservative former state representative and former GOP candidate for the 8th Congressional District, has been selected to replace former state Sen. Norm Shinkle as chair of the GOP’s 8th Congressional District.