Chelsea Clinton falsely tweeted Friday that the Michigan House of Representatives had voted to allow emergency medical providers choice in treating patients, specifically giving EMTs the option to deny treatment to gay patients.
“Absolutely appalling,” the former First Daughter tweeted, “Michigan House Passed Bill Allowing EMTs To Refuse Treatment To Gay People.”
The story Clinton cited was from a website for the LGBT New Now Next Awards, and was posted in 2014. When followers pointed out the story was old, Clinton deleted her tweet.
Not only was the story old, but the actual premise was deeply flawed. What the Michigan House actually passed was a garden variety Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which would have exempted religious individuals from laws that infringed on their religious beliefs.
Like most state RFRAs, the Michigan bill contained a clause that allows the state to infringe on religious beliefs when there’s a “compelling government interest.” The preservation of human life is widely considered to qualify, according to legal experts.
The misconception that the bill would allow ambulance drivers to let gay people bleed out in the streets evidently stems from a local CBS story, which was later picked up by CBS News’ national website.
“For example, a Christian doctor who does not believe in a gay lifestyle would not have to treat a gay patient,” CBS Detroit legal analyst Charlie Langton said at the time. “Or perhaps, a Jewish butcher would not have to handle non-Kosher meat.”
When the original CBS story was published, a Stanford law professor told the Weekly Standard that Langton was simply wrong.
“The exact same law has been on the books at the federal level and in many states for almost twenty years, and no such claim has ever been made. And if it were made, it would lose in court, probably unanimously,” said Michael W. McConnell, who was also a former federal appeals court judge.
The bill Chelsea Clinton’s tweet referred to, and condemned, also has a federal equivalent. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 was ironically signed by her own father, President Bill Clinton.