Update: After The Senate passed an amendment to SB 4012 to include a clause banning the bill from being used for discrimination (passing with a vote of 23 to 11), the bill was voted down on the floor on Wednesday with 27 Senators voting against it – including many that had originally supported it but switched their vote after it was amended to be non-discriminatory.
“We can vote for this bill and allow it not to be used for discriminatory purposes.
To value the religious freedom and protection that we hold so dear.
And to recognize the human dignity and goodness of people that are different from us.”
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch Carmichael gave a passionate, emotional speech in favor of an amendment introduced by Senators Corey Palumbo and Ron Stollings to the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act. The amendment would restrict the law from being used to invalidate anti-discrimination ordinances, ensuring that the law stays focused on protecting religious freedoms without encroaching on any other person’s rights.
This was a special speech. And it was another clarifying moment for the 2016 Legislature.
Beyond the pros and cons of the legislation, Carmichael’s speech and the vote on the amendment clarified that the ideological divisions that have created so much strife within the Legislature this year are not purely political party divisions.
Senators voting for the amendment were in favor of not allowing RFRA to be used to promote discrimination, or to tear down anti-discrimination ordinances. Senators voting against the amendment wanted to preserve that power within the bill – and not protect people from discrimination.
[Click here to see how your Senator voted – photo by Joshua Austin/Facebook.]
The votes for and against twist and turn across party lines – some legislators voting for the amendment were Republicans, voting in favor of the Democrat amendment. Some members who voted against the amendment were Democrats.
We often get pulled into rhetoric about how what we care about falls along the priorities of one political party or another.
That’s just not true. It’s always more complicated than that.
Tuesday demonstrated that very clearly on the floor of the West Virginia Senate.
And some senators showed us that they were willing to fight hard to protect our right to be protected from discrimination. While we wish it wasn’t a fight, we will keep uplifting the effort, and the much appreciated leadership on the issue we’re seeing from both sides of the aisle.
A video of Carmichael’s complete speech is posted now at Fairness WV’s facebook page.