When Rights Conflict

Sage Santana, Feature Reporter


Last October, a lesbian couple in Michigan was denied care for their daughter by a pediatrician, because of their sexual orientation. The argument made was that this doctor could deny the baby care, because gay unions were against her religion.

According to many media outlets, the reason that this doctor can do this is under an act in Michigan that protects the freedom of religion.

This is not a new piece of legislation at all, in fact, it was originally passed by President Clinton in 1993.  The act is more formally known as a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

The act limits the governmental action to inflict on an individual’s freedom to exercise their religion.   It has been in place for years, yet since the recent event, there was controversy concerning whether or not this doctor has the right to this under the act to deny the baby girl medical care.

Most of the buzz has been within the media, debating if the RFRA actually condones these actions or not.  To help readers understand the RFRA, the Cityzen is here to explain.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is put in place so that no one can be discriminated against for their religion.

This includes, in theory, the ability for a Jewish family to decline an autopsy to be done on a deceased relative, or for a Sikh to be able to wear their traditional turban in schools, offices, and other public places.

The RFRA is in place so that no person of faith suffers discrimination from a governmental entity.  The RFRA does not condone for the denial, however, of emergency medical services to anyone, provided that it does not conflict with protecting the doctor’s religious beliefs.

Furthermore, the American Medical Association states that “ Physicians cannot refuse to care for patients based on race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other criteria that would constitute invidious discrimination…” however, it does allow  for the doctor to opt out of serving a patient if it goes against their religious beliefs.

Another point of tension is that while Michigan does have a law forbidding discrimination  (Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act) it does not have one prohibiting discrimination against LGBT individuals. Therefore, yes the doctor’s actions were technically legal within the state of Michigan.

Now that some of the argument has been established, and some of the points of conflicts cleared up, a stronger argument can be made.  Clearly, this is a heated topic with various positions and arguments to be made. Various arguments and positions can be made on this event and what it means not only for religious freedom, but also the rights of LGBT members of the community and their families.  It is important, however argument is made,  to remember that at the end of the day, was denied medical care, and a doctor felt she had a right to defend her faith. Although the question of whether this is ethical or not is still up for question, all that can be done is to collect all the facts, disregard the fallacies, formulate an opinion on one’s own, and remember that we are all one species sharing this planet, and deserve to treat each other as such.


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