Michigan senate advances anti-gay bill, ironically citing “conscience.”

This is disgusting.  The state senate in Michigan has advanced a bill that would protect doctors who refused treatment to gay people.

The Michigan Senate’s Committee on Health Policy has approved a bill that would protect health care professionals who wish to discriminate against the LGBT community. Under the guise of “religious liberty and conscience protection,” Senate Bill 975 would allow health facilities to refuse to provide any health care service for any reason of “conscience,” which includes “religious beliefs, moral convictions, or ethical principles”:

A health facility may assert as a matter of conscience an objection to providing a health care service and may decline to provide a health care service that violates its conscience pursuant to this section. If a health facility asserts as a matter of conscience an objection to providing a health care service under this section, the health facility shall apply that objection equally to all patients that it serves, subject to this act.

The bill waives any civil, criminal, or administrative liability for the facilities that choose to discriminate, so no legal recourse would be possible. Instead, it guarantees damages for any person who is forced to violate their “conscience.”

If a religious hospital doesn’t want to treat someone because those in charge don’t approve of who the patient loves, they could just watch them die.  No penalty can be assigned.  Apparently when it comes to “conscience laws”, greater respect is given to those with a conscience deficiency than to the well-being of, y’know, humans.

But demand that a doctor treats a gay person, regardless of who they love, and you could have your ass sued off.

Repeatedly, we are told the world is better when religion is present.  It seems to me this kind of overt disdain for normal people and their health would not exist without a deep Christian faith in millions of citizens and the government they influence.

On bigots becoming the minority.
Alan Keyes: pro-equality SCOTUS ruling would be a cause for war.
Texas bill would require fetuses with birth defects to be carried to term.
London pro-equality bus ad scores points for brevity.
About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

    Good start. Then how about policemen only reporting crimes as long as they can find it in their conscience to do so? It would certainly cut down on all those pesky rapes and robberies if you could just say “meh… he was gay… she was asking for it, and this black murder victim had the mark of Cain so time to knock off early and high-five Jesus on the way home!”

  • Zugswang

    Reminds me of the darkly humorous joke, “How can you tell if a hospital is run by Christian Scientists?”
    “It’s an empty hospice attached to a funeral home.”

    • Carolyn

      Clearly you know little about the Christian Science religion. I was raised as a Christian Scientist and, although I do not choose to follow the faith, I respect those who do. The theology is radical so, naturally, it is made the butt of many jokes by those who can’t be bothered to understand what they are mocking. But of course, any system of understanding health which questions the indefatigable wisdom of doctors and inherent rightness of the western medical-industrial complex is bogus, right?

      • RuQu

        Any “system of understanding health,” in fact any system of belief or understanding at all, that is not grounded in science and repeatably verifiable experiment is, by definition, bogus.

        So, yes.

      • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

        the western medical-industrial complex

        The current system which allows the abuses of the pharmaceutical industry is not ideal. Perhaps you might enlighten us as to what Christian Science might want to replace it with?

        Because from the outside, it looks pretty poor.

      • Zugswang

        “But of course, any system of understanding health which questions the indefatigable wisdom of doctors and inherent rightness of the western medical-industrial complex is bogus, right?”

        No, just the ones that let people die from easily treatable medical conditions like diabetes mellitus and any number of diseases for which we have proven and effective vaccines. You know, like Christian Scientists.


  • christinastephens

    Neat, they can use this to claim “religious liberty and conscience protection” for denying treatment for illegal aliens, interracial couples, or pretty much fucking anyone.

    • Elaine

      I once read a news story about a doctor’s office that turned away a screaming two-year-old girl with a painful ear infection because her parents had tattoos. At first they claimed it was because they didn’t want “that kind” of person in their office, then later they claimed the discrimination was biblically based and therefore a religious freedom issue.

    • Andrew Kohler

      My suggestion: doctors take advantage of this law by refusing treatment to any legislator who voted for it. (Only as satisfying as I find that idea in theory, in principle I could never condone such inhumanity–we have to remain better than our enemies.)

  • smrnda

    I wish the medical profession would start cracking down on these obvious violations of physician ethics. If you can’t treat someone because you don’t approve of their ‘lifestyle’ you should have your license to practice medicine revoked.

    The language of this bill is so vague that anybody could refuse to do anything and claim ‘conscience objection’ to escape responsibility. How about doing things the right way, where the patient counts and if the physician can’t place patient welfare above their ideologies, that they shouldn’t be practicing?

    • Martha

      That sounds like a MUCH better option. I hate that religious people can discriminate against other people just because the religious person is stupid enough to think they’re better then somebody else.

  • Patrick

    So there is nothing specifically anti-gay about this bill at all? This bill is just as much anti-anti gays as anything. “Oh, you picket for Westboro Baptist Church…. I will not treat you.”

    The title is pretty sensationalist and misleading. This is not like you…you are generally above that kind of trickery.

    • Azkyroth

      Sure is fortunate nothing ever happens in a larger context and bigots are always perfectly forthright about their intentions.

  • jenea

    I’m not sure where the “anti-gay” part of this is coming from. Bills like this are typically introduced to allow institutions to avoid providing birth control or other reproductive services. Notice the language “the health facility shall apply that objection equally to all patients that it serves, subject to this act.” It’s not that they are making it so they can deny services to people they don’t like, but rather services they don’t like.

    Or am I missing something?

  • http://www.basilbaker.com Stephan J Harper

    Yet another example – as Hitchens said – “how religion poisons everything.” Healthcare? Really?

  • emptyknight

    The bill does state that health care cannot be refused as a matter of conscience due to a “patient’s status” or ability to pay, etc. The bill does not define what a patient’s status is so it’s vague there, perhaps deliberately. Or perhaps status is defined elsewhere in Michigan law? I’m making the assumption it means race, ethnicity, veteran status, disability, etc. I don’t know if Michigan includes LGBTQ people in their protected categories of people.

    Even if providers cannot specifically target gay people, this bill has high potential to disproportionately impact lots of people who already experience barriers to care. HIV testing, abortions, birth control, procedures and medications for transgendered people, treatments for people with substance abuse disorders — just off the top of my head.

    As a nurse, I see these types of legislation as allowing medical professionals to abdicate their responsibility for the well-being of their fellow humans. As a gay man, I see a lot of potential for disproportionate harm to any of us who don’t fit into religious categories of “good” people. As an atheist, I can’t ignore the fact that most of the objections against providing care to fellow humans are the result of poor thinking and immoral ideas about the world. This bill, and others like it, is odious even if not directly intended to be anti-gay.

    • Victor

      Michigan does not include LGBT in any protected categories. In fact, ever since both houses of legislature and the governorship have fallen to Republicans, it’s been one attack on LGBTs or another. They already outlawed any domestic partner benefits couties and municipalities may provide. (Including those – oh, the great freedom of contract! – that have been negotiated with a union.) Among other things, it’s too depressing to list. And they also openly oppose taking the sodomy law struck by Lawrence is still off the books.

    • Teri

      Actually, the law allows ANY health care provider (that means doctors, nurses, paramedics, lab techs, respiratory therapists, etc) to refuse to treat on any religious, moral or ethical basis. So, if I object to Muslims, I don’t have to treat them. If I object to someone who drinks too much, I don’t have to treat them. It isn’t just members of the GLBT community being discriminated against, but I am sure they are the main target. The Bill is very general and vague….deliberately so.

      When I went into the medical profession I did so knowing that I might have to treat someone who was HIV+, gay, of another religion, another ethnicity. My job isn’t to judge ANYONE. My job is to save lives. Anyone who would refuse to treat any category of person covered by this law, has NO BUSINESS being in health care. It’s also a violation of the Hippocratic Oath.

      The people sponsoring this bill are homophobic, judgemental, unChristian morons who deserve to be voted out of office. And any health care provider or facility who would use this law as a way to refuse to treat ANYONE, deserves to have their licenses pulled.

  • Brad1990

    So essentially they’ve advanced a Bill that would allow Doctors and Healthcare professionals the right to throw the Hyppocratic oath out of the window. Fantastic.

    So if the Doctor’s a homophobe, they can refuse to treat gays. If the Doctor’s a racist, they can refuse to treat Blacks? What if the Doctor refuses to treat anyone he considers to be an immoral person and refuses to treat Evangelical Christians? It’d never happen, because that would be immoral in itself, but it’d sure put the wind up whatever moron thought this up.

    I assume there’s no danger of this being passed? Surely it would violate existing equal opportunity laws and such?

    • eric

      What if the Doctor refuses to treat anyone he considers to be an immoral person and refuses to treat Evangelical Christians?

      In most cases of religious favoritism, ‘turnabout is fair play’ responses are a petty fast and effective way to get the government to back off. It works really well when you have things like Nativity scenes on public land or 10 Commandment monuments.
      But in this case the cost is people’s heath. Its too high. I don’t want to see ‘tit for tat’ here, I want to see this go into the trash heap of history without anyone serving as an example of why the law is bad.

      I am not trying to imply that you were suggesting atheist doctors refuse to treat evangelical christians. I just thought your post was a good jumping-off point to bring up how different this case is from the regular cases of government unconstitutionally favoring (one) religion.

    • Teri

      “and refuses to treat Evangelical Christians? ”

      What if he or she is LDS and refuses to treat anyone who will not agree to be baptized into the LDS church?? Under this law, they could do that.

  • J

    It’s interesting that it is as vague as it is, stating “as a matter of conscience” medicare professionals may refuse service. Perhaps if doctors in Michigan were to refuse service to the authors of this bill “as a matter of conscience” this type of legislation would stop. More broadly this phrase could also be used against people of color, or immigrants or what have you. In my opinion, this whole anti-LGBTQ circus can be best summed up with a children’s book: The Sneeches by Dr. Seuss.

    • baal

      Dr.Seuss rocks but my wife has banned me from reading them out loud. I get stuck in rhyming mode and that’s painfully lame in English (less so in French but I don’t speak it so no out there).

      As a side note, Dr. Seuss was the equivalent of ‘sex positive’ though the term wasn’t around back then. As such, the christians of the day used to give him flack and throw up barriers to his books. Sex positive and writes (language usage and being a good person messages) for children!! Oh, won’t someone stop the pervert! /hand wring.

  • baal

    The various proponents of bills such as these are aware of the ironic cases and don’t find them compelling (though I do). The reply is akin to, “well, you can just see a different pharmacist or go to a different hospital.” The problem wiht that reply is that when you’re bleeding out from a hemorrhage, you don’t always get to quiz the ambulance on where you’re going and what policies they have in place for your identifiers. It’s factually wrong to state that the injured have choice of vendors.

  • F. Bacon

    I can see it now…christian therapists refusing to treat nonbelievers. There are so few therapists as it is and secular therapists are hard to find. It will serve to disseminate religious propaganda and force people who are already unstable to accept religion as a condition of treatment.

  • william

    I’m definitely not saying the bill is right. But you’re incorrect about them being able to sit and watch anyone die. Read Sec.7.9a. And the bill also states that whatever they choose to not do for one person for a religious purpose has to be in writing and can not be performed for anyone. I don’t think this is a gay issue. It reads to be an abortion issue.

    • Teri

      It’s not JUST a gay issue, nor is it JUST an abortion issue (who goes to a hospital for an abortion?? No one, unless she is hemorrhaging. And most doctors don’t do abortions as a matter of their regular practice so no, this is not just an abortion issue. )….but the way the Bill is written, a person can make it into an issue against ANYONE they object to on a moral, ethical or religious basis (I would argue that, as a person who chose to go into the health care field you have a moral and ethical obligation to treat anyone as judging people is NOT part of the job description).

  • Ila Atwood

    What in ******€%#}} is going on in Michigan?

    • Teri

      I don’t know, Ila…other than we have been taken over by the religious right. I find it ironic that all of their bills lately have a decidedly unChristian tang to them despite their contention that they are Christians. Not by any definition I know of….

      I would move, but my kids are here. So, instead, I will fight!!!

  • Dianna Topper

    So…..the hell with the Hippocratic oath, huh. Any doctor that would refuse to treat a person because of their sexual identity should lose their license to practice medicine, because they aren’t practicing medicine. They are practicing hypocrisy. Hmmmm. Hippocratic….hypocrisy….maybe they’re confused.

    • Teri

      My niece and her husband are both surgeons here in Michigan. I have sent them a copy of the bill and asked their opinion and if any of their co-workers have expressed an opinion. Both of them are Conservatives but not particularly religious so I will be interested to see what they think. I do know one thing, If MY hospital uses this law to refuse to treat ANYONE, I will be looking elsewhere for my care and work. And I will protest at ANY hospital that discriminates.

  • Teri

    I know one of the sponsors of the Bill, personally (though, thankfully, not really friends, just acquaintances). I sent her an email giving my objections to the Bill before I knew she was one of the sponsors. I was appalled by the letter I received back. She calls herself a “Christian”????? I have to question if she has ever actually studied what it means to be a “Christian.”

    If she comes into my ER, I will not refuse to treat her….but I will make it VERY clear that I am doing so ONLY because it is my moral and ethical obligation as a health care provider.