Michigan's Senate passed an anti-bullying measure today, but at the last minute Republicans added a clause reasserting freedom of expression for "religious or moral viewpoints." As a result, all of the chamber's Democrats voted against the bill. The Detroit News reports:
The law includes a section noting it doesn't abridge First Amendment free speech rights or prohibit expression of religious or moral viewpoints — a provision Democrats fear could be used to justify harassment of gay, lesbian or transgender students.
The bill, Matt's Safe School Law, is named for Matt Epling, who committed suicide at the age of 14 after being bullied by classmates. During today's debate, one senator read a letter from Epling's father, who opposes the bill in its current form. "I am ashamed that this could be Michigan's bill on anti-bullying when in fact it is a 'bullying is OK in Michigan law,'" Epling's father wrote, according to the Detroit News.
There's also a video being passed around the web today of State Senator Gretchen Whitmer giving an impassioned speech opposing the bill. "You may be able to pat yourselves on the back today and say that you did something, but in actuality you are explicitly outlining how to get away with bullying," she told her colleagues. For now, the bill will be passed back to the Republican controlled House, where the Detroit News reports the speaker said he's unsure whether it will receive support. Watch the video of Whitmer's speech below: