The same day Michigan defends its gay marriage ban before the U.S. Supreme Court, state senators are holding a hearing on a bill that would put in place a Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Senate Judiciary Committee chair Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, says today’s timing is coincidental. That may be, but the two issues are related. As gay marriage becomes more of a certainty in the U.S., multiple states have reacted by trying to pass their own version of the federal religious freedom law.

Michigan’s bill, sponsored by Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, would give individuals with deeply held religious beliefs additional legal protection against government interference. Opponents says such laws give license to discrimination, under the cover of religious freedom.

Twenty-one states currently have similar laws.

The Legislature tried passing a RFRA bill last fall, in conjunction with expanding the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination. But both efforts died in lame duck.

Now, Republicans, including some legislative leaders, have said they support passing RFRA without additional protections for gays. But Gov. Rick Snyder has consistently said he won’t support the religious freedom bill without the other. If they don’t heed his warning, lawmakers are just spinning their wheels.

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