TIME States

This Is How Many Americans Will Ring in the New Year

At the beginning of the new year, a baby will be born in the U.S. every 8 seconds

More than 320 million Americans will ring in the New Year, the United States Census Bureau said on Monday.

New projections released by the agency show the U.S. population is expected to hit 320,090,857 on Jan. 1, which is 2.33 million or .73%, more than New Year’s Day 2014.

“In January 2015, the U.S. is expected to experience a birth every eight seconds and one death every 12 seconds,” the bureau said in a statement. “Meanwhile, net international migration is expected to add one person to the U.S. population every 33 seconds.”

On a global level, an estimated 7,214,958,996 people will be alive to celebrate the New Year, up 77.3 million from last year.

See the real-time figures here:

TIME politics

The Man Who Would Be King… of Texas

General Map Of United States With Forts And Military Stations
Buyenlarge / Getty Images Map of the United States extending from the Atlantic coast through most of Texas showing military stations and forts, 1861. Illustration by Joseph Hutchins Colton.

Dec. 29, 1845: Texas becomes the 28th state in the Union

Texas has never been much of a joiner. When the United States officially annexed the Lone Star Republic on this day, Dec. 29, in 1845, it did so over some strident objections from inside and outside the state.

Northerners didn’t want Texas to join the Union because it did so as a slave state. Mexico objected because it still considered Texas a territory — and went to war with the U.S. within a year of the annexation. And while a majority of Texans favored statehood, one prominent politician stood in staunch opposition: the Republic’s second president, Mirabeau Lamar.

Lamar — with the apt middle name of Buonaparte — “had a dream of empire,” according to a 1928 TIME story. A Renaissance man known for his poetry and his talents for horseback riding, fencing and oil painting, he became an equally effective revolutionary in the fight for Texas’s independence from Mexico. As president, he was dogged in his determination to solidify the nascent Republic’s sovereignty and to establish trade with foreign powers. In fact, his nation-building efforts helped urge a divided U.S. Congress to pull the trigger on annexation, according to TIME, which explained:

He saw a cotton and mineral country without tariff restrictions, sending raw materials to England in exchange for manufactured products. England liked this and her agents began to talk turkey with Texans. The U. S. Congress, alarmed lest the “golden moment to obtain Texas” be lost, adopted in 1845 a resolution to annex Texas.

While Lamar was unhappy to see the end of his empire dreams, he eventually conceded that it was better for Texas — still under constant threat of Mexican aggression on one front, and at risk of becoming a British satellite on the other — to join forces with the U.S.

But that didn’t stop him from resenting the intrusion. Following annexation, when Lamar was sent to Laredo to set up a municipal government in the midst of the Mexican-American War, he wrote to his former vice president, complaining about President James K. Polk’s collusion with his old political rival, Sam Houston, in typically florid prose: “The post I occupy in this war is certainly a very petty and unsuitable one, but the President is determined to gratify his favorite — your ‘demented monster’ — in all his resentments. Polk is but a poor tool to the malice of that bloated mass of iniquity.”

Like the state that still uses the motto “Texas: It’s like a whole other country,” Lamar was larger than life, with ambitions for the young nation that he couldn’t quite pull off, despite his impressive powers of persuasion.

“Lamar had great personal charm, impulsive generosity, and oratorical gifts,” wrote Herbert Gambrell, the late Texas historian and author of Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar: Troubadour and Crusader. “[But] his powerful imagination caused him to project a program greater than he or Texas could actualize.”

While Lamar’s friends “were almost fanatically devoted to him,” Gambrell noted, his detractors “declared him a better poet than politician.”

Read TIME’s 1928 story about Texan history and identity, here in the archives: Texas Magazines

TIME Drugs

Meet the Man Behind Oregon’s New Legal Pot Market

Michael Schoenholtz Rob Patridge is chair of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, the body that will oversee the creation of Oregon's market for recreational marijuana.

'We’ve been fortunate that we weren’t the pioneers'

When Oregon voters approved Measure 91 in the midterm elections, they became the latest to say that marijuana should be taxed and regulated like alcohol. Now comes the enormous job of actually bringing the legal marijuana market to life.

The task falls to Rob Patridge, the chair of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, and its four volunteer commissioners. The group will be busy ahead of the Jan. 5, 2016 deadline for accepting applications from Oregonians who want to grow, process and sell marijuana. TIME spoke to Patridge, a former Republican state lawmaker and the current district attorney of Klamath County — proud home of Crater Lake — about his thoughts on edibles, when the market will realistically open and whether lawsuits like this one are a threat to the commission’s work.

What is your general philosophy for developing Oregon’s pot market?

We’re going out in late January and doing what we’re calling a listening tour. We’re going to go throughout Oregon to talk to the communities, local government, law enforcement, educators, the treatment community, the people who are invested in growing marijuana and selling marijuana. We’re going to listen to the impacts it’s going to have on the community and try to define how we’re going to move forward to address that as we put together the rules.

What issues do you expect to come up on this listening tour?

There’s been a lot of interest in stuff that the legislature may or may not address [like possibly allowing a special election for local jurisdictions to opt out of allowing pot shops]. There are concerns related to edibles and local government is very interested in public safety issues, how it’s going to interact with criminal laws. The issues are large but we’re going to try to break them down so we can eat the elephant one bite at a time rather than trying to eat the whole thing.

Edibles are proving to be controversial. People are concerned about kids accidentally ingesting them, wondering whether certain types should be banned. What are your thoughts about how to approach the issue?

The concern has certainly been raised, and we’re going to be proceeding with caution. I know there’s some legislative interest related to edibles. The legislature could mandate types. So the jury’s going to be out for a while … We’re watching what Colorado and Washington are doing. We’ve been in direct contact with the other states. We’ve reached out to Alaska. And we’re going to take some of our commissioners and staff there to talk about implementation. I’m not one to not learn from other people’s lessons.

At this point, do you think there are certain types of edibles that shouldn’t be on the market?

I don’t know that [certain types] should or shouldn’t be on the market. It’s about how they’re used and what’s responsible from a packaging standpoint, how they get labeled, those types of things.

In general, how is the situation going to be different in Oregon than in Washington or Colorado?

First, we’re not starting from zero. We already have a system in place for medical. We also have the benefit of seeing what’s gone on in Washington and Colorado, which they didn’t. We’re not plying new ground. The Colorado model is probably a better fit, because of how their medical marijuana is regulated. It’s similar to what we do. We’ve been fortunate that we weren’t the pioneers, even if we are the Pioneer State. We’re fortunate to gain from their knowledge, and they’ve been very free about sharing it.

What is your timeline for when legal shops will open their doors and the state will start collecting tax revenue?

We’re really on a fairly tight timeline. What I’m calling the “home grow provisions” [personal cannabis growing and possession becoming legal] come into effect July 1, 2015. Beyond that, we’ve got a whole set of rules we’ve got to deal with. We’ve got to set up a whole seed-to-sale system. And if the legislature changes the playing field, we’re going to be continually looking at that. Best case scenario, last half of 2016 before we’d be up and running. We’re trying to be very up front. A lot of people thought that in January 2016 these retail locations would pop up and people would go purchase marijuana. And that’s just not going to be the case.

The attorneys general in Oklahoma and Nebraska are suing Colorado over marijuana legalization, saying it violates the Supremacy Clause. How does that shape your thoughts about the nature of the market you’re setting up?

There’s the potential for a lot of legal challenges for Measure 91. Until it’s declared one way or another, we have to stay with what current law is. Our job under current law is to implement, and the court can do what it may. If it’s looks like it’s a substantial enough issue—if a judge issues a stay or something else happens—obviously we would work with the legislature to decide whether we should continue to spend the state’s money, of if they’d want us to wait until there was a legal resolution.

Is legal pot good for Oregon?

It’s my job to implement it as the chair of the commission. Voters made that decision. And as I’ve told everybody, I try to be a consensus builder. That’s my job, to create a process that’s transparent, that engages everybody. That’s really our role, and I’m not taking a policy position as the chair. Certainly there are arguments on all sides. It’s so early.

TIME States

Florida Surpasses New York to Become 3rd Most Populous State

USA Florida Miami South Beach Spring Break Crowded Beach
Robert Clare—Getty Images

And North Dakota is the fastest-growing one

Florida has overtaken New York as the third most populous state in the country.

The Sunshine State added 293,000 new residents between July 1, 2013 and July 1 of this year, according to the U.S. Census bureau, reaching a total population of 19.9 million. New York added only 51,000 people during the same period, amounting to a total of 19.7 million.

North Dakota saw the fastest growth at an increase of 2.16%, while the overall U.S. population increased 0.75% to 318.9 million. California and Texas remain the first and second most populous states, with 38.8 million and 26.95 million, respectively.

TIME States

Florida Woman Slaps 72-Year-Old Who Denied Her Facebook Request

The alleged assailant has been charged with aggravated battery

Police arrested a Florida woman accused of slapping a 72-year-old woman who declined her friend request on Facebook.

Rachel Anne Hayes, 27, became upset when the 72-year-old said that her Facebook name was inappropriate and would only accept her friend request if she changed her name, according to the Tampa Bay Times. (What name she uses on the social media site has not been released by authorities.)

The two women began to argue over the matter, and Hayes eventually left the elderly woman’s home. But Hayes then returned, and when the two fought again outside her door, Hayes allegedly slapped the woman who turned down her friend request several times.

Police charged Hayes with aggravated battery on an elderly person, a felony.

[Tampa Bay Times]

Read next: Why a Facebook ‘Sympathize’ Button Is a Terrible Idea

TIME States

These States Produced the Most Peace Corps Volunteers in 2014

Vermont is "Peace Corps heaven"

Vermont produced the most Peace Corps volunteers per capita than any other state in 2014.

According USA Today, for every 100,000 Vermont residents there are 7.8 volunteers—more than any other state. The second largest proportion of volunteers comes from Washington, D.C., where there are 6.7 volunteers for every 100,000 residents.

Volunteers from the storied government organization travel to areas around the globe to serve communities in the most need.

USA Today reports Vermont has taken the spot three times in the past five years. “Vermont is the happy hunting ground for Peace Corps. It really is Peace Corps heaven,” Elizabeth Chamberlain, spokeswoman for Peace Corps Northeast Regional Recruitment Office, told USA Today.

California, however, tops the list of states that produce the most total volunteers. In 2014, 926 Peace Corps members came from California, followed by New York, Washington, Florida, and Texas.

[USA Today]

TIME Drugs

Texas Lawmaker Proposes Lower Marijuana Possession Penalties

File picture shows marijuana plants at a indoor cultivation in Montevideo
Andres Stapff—Reuters Marijuana plants are seen at a indoor cultivation.

A new bill would make the possession of up to one oz. punishable with a $100 ticket

On Monday, Texas State Rep. Joe Moody introduced a bill that would remove criminal penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

“Our current marijuana policy in Texas just isn’t working,” Moody said in a statement. “We need a new approach that allows us to more effectively utilize our limited criminal justice resources. This legislation is a much-needed step in the right direction.”

Under current Texas law, possessing up to two oz. of weed can yield six months of jail time and a $2,000 penalty. Under the proposal, adults caught with up to one oz. would get a $100 ticket, similar to a parking violation. Larger amounts would still lead to criminal penalties. The measure would make Texas the 20th state plus the District of Columbia to remove the threat of jail time for the possession of small amounts of weed.

The bill is backed by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the pro-legalization group that spearheaded the passage of Colorado’s historic legalization measure. The bill is also the first in a series that the MPP expects to be introduced in Texas this year, the next attempting to legalize medical marijuana and the third attempting to legalize recreational marijuana.

The latter two are long shots, and the first won’t be an easy sell to the Republican-controlled legislature. Texas Governor Rick Perry has said he opposes legalization. He has intimated that he supports decriminalizing weed, but has also said that the state has “kind of done that.” In 2007, Texas passed a measure giving local governments the power to respond to marijuana possession with a summons rather than an arrest, but few counties have adopted it and someone issued a summons may still end up in jail.

Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, another pro-legalization group, says that Texas is in a tier of states that are the least likely to ease marijuana restrictions. These “third tier” states, he says, are ones in which “the legislature has never shown any want to move in this direction and/or there is an executive at the top who is going to oppose and veto any reforms.”

A poll commissioned by MPP in 2013 found that 61% of Texas residents would support a penalty reduction like the one Moody is proposing, while 58% would support the legalization of medical and recreational weed.

At a press conference on Monday, Moody was joined by representatives from other groups who support the bill, such as the ACLU of Texas and Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition. Support from such libertarian-leaning conservatives will be crucial in the heavily Republican state.

“Texas doesn’t seem to be ready for a full legal market,” acknowledges Heather Fazio, a representative for MPP in Texas. “That doesn’t mean that the conversation shouldn’t be happening.”

TIME Environment

Environmentalists Go to Battle Over Face Wash

Vials of microbeads alongside products that use such small, plastic spheres.
Photo courtesy of 5 Gyres Vials of microbeads alongside products that use such small, plastic spheres.

Environmentalists are hoping a landmark report about how much plastic is in the world's oceans will help get bans on small plastics passed

Face washes claiming to be “blackhead erasers” or “superfruit scrubs” may seem appealing for scrubbing your way to a fresh new face, but some of them also contain an ingredient that environmental advocates and lawmakers are trying to ban. Tiny, round bits of plastic known as microbeads, no bigger than a grain of couscous, may pose hazards in the natural world.

These little orbs, introduced to replace harsher exfoliants like pumice, are so small that after they’re washed down the sink or tub, they sneak through sifters at water treatment plants and end up in the ocean and other bodies of water. Once in the ocean, researchers have found, these plastics act like sponges for toxins, and can be accidentally ingested by fish, thus ending up in the food chain.

Several states considered bills to ban microbeads last session, but only Illinois passed a law, becoming the first state to do so. Now lawmakers in at least three states are gearing up for another go in 2015.

“We were outgunned,” says Stiv Wilson, associate director at 5 Gyres, a non-profit dedicated to fighting plastic pollution. In California, the industry group Personal Care Products Council—which represents companies like Johnson & Johnson and Clinique—lobbied members to oppose a bill that would have banned the use of microbeads, saying it was “overly aggressive and unrealistic.” The bill failed by one vote. The same state assemblyman who proposed that bill, Richard Bloom, plans to try again, with what Wilson says will be a “much broader coalition” of supporters.

5 Gyres has also been working with lawmakers in Hawaii and Vermont, and hopes to find sponsors in Ohio, Florida and Maryland. The group developed model legislation that states have used as the foundation for bead-banning bills and hopes that a new report published on Dec. 10 in journal PLOS ONE will bolster their cause.

Part of the problem in getting these bills passed is that microbeads, just one type of plastic ending up in the ocean, only became de rigueur among companies about a decade ago, so there’s little hard science showing their particular effects on the environment.

The new report, based on 24 expeditions from 2007 to 2013, produced the first global estimate of just how much plastic of all sizes is in the ocean—including microplastics. According to the investigation, there are more than 5 trillion pieces afloat at sea. “There’s 20 times the amount of plastic in the North Pacific as there are stars in the Milky Way galaxy,” Wilson says.

Many companies have voluntarily vowed to phase microbeads out of their products, including giants like Johnson & Johnson, L’Oréal and Proctor & Gamble. But environmentalists have continued to pursue legislative bans to make sure no companies slip through the cracks and to hold companies to a firm timeline. Wilson believes that just a few states need to pass bans for companies to entirely reformulate products, to avoid cumbersome distribution challenges.

“The fundamental question is going to be: do we wait to take this material out until we prove that this microbead causes harm?” Chelsea Rochman, a marine ecologist at the University of California, Davis, who specializes in microplastics research told TIME in an interview for a previous story. She’s currently working on research to find out more about how much of a threat microplastics pose to marine life.

“This is not rocket science,” Wilson says. “We’re running out of time. These policies need to be passed.”

Read next: Know What’s In Your Face Wash: Why Illinois Banned Microbeads

TIME Obesity

The 10 Healthiest and 10 Least-Healthy States

Slice of meat in shape of US
Getty Images

Here are the states that are doing it right—and those in real need of a checkup

In some ways, Americans today are healthier than they were in 1990, when the United Health Foundation first published America’s Health Rankings, an annual state-by-state assessment of our nation’s health. Cardiovascular and cancer deaths are down, and the smoking rate has decreased 36%. Plus, life expectancy is at an all-time high—78.7 years. “But although we’re living longer, we’re also living sicker, with preventable illness at an alarming level,” says Reed Tuckson, MD, external senior medical advisor to United Health Foundation. The number-one reason: Obesity. “Since 1990, the obesity rate went from 11.6% to 29.4%, a 153% increase,” Dr. Tuckson says. In the last year alone, it rose 7%. Physical inactivity is also at a new high: 23.5% of Americans do not exercise at all.

Read on for the states that are doing it right—and the 10 that have a lot more work to do to improve their health.

The 10 Most Healthy States

10. Nebraska

2013 Rank: 11
Change: +1

Nebraska is among the healthiest states in America in 2014, coming in at number 10 (a slight increase over last year). Nebraska has a low rate of drug deaths, high rate of high school graduation, and high immunization coverage among children.

Challenges:
High prevalence of binge drinking
High incidence of Salmonella
Large disparity in health status by education level

HEALTH.COM: 12 Vaccines Your Child Needs

9. North Dakota

2013 Rank: 9
Change: None

North Dakota is the ninth most-healthy state in the U.S. this year, thanks to its low rate of drug deaths, high immunization coverage among teens, and low prevalence of low birth weight. North Dakota also came in ninth in 2013.

Challenges:
High prevalence of binge drinking
High prevalence of obesity
High occupational fatalities rate

8. Colorado

2013 Rank: 8
Change: None

Colorado is known for its outdoor activities—hiking, skiing, biking—so it should come as no surprise that the state has the lowest rates for obesity and diabetes in the United States. It ranks eighth for the second year in a row.

Challenges:
High prevalence of binge drinking
High prevalence of low birth weight
Large disparity in health status by education level

7. New Hampshire

2013 Rank: 5
Change: -2

New Hampshire comes in at number seven, and is just one of several New England states to rank in the top 10 for 2014. New Hampshire residents are more active than most Americans, enjoy a low rate of infectious disease, and have a low infant mortality rate. There is also high immunization coverage among teens.

Challenges:
High prevalence of binge drinking
High rate of drug deaths
Low per capita public health funding

6. Minnesota

2013 Rank: 3
Change: -3

Minnesota is known for its bitterly cold winters, but that doesn’t stop residents of this snowy state from keeping active, which also helps the state have one of the lowest obesity and diabetes rates in the nation. Minnesota also has a low rate of drug deaths.

Challenges:
High prevalence of binge drinking
High incidence of pertussis
Low per capita health funding

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5. Utah

2013 Rank: 6
Change: +1

Fewer people smoke in Utah than in any other state. Utah also has the second-lowest diabetes rate, the fourth-lowest obesity rate, a low percentage of children in poverty, and a low rate of preventable hospitalizations.

Challenges:
High rate of drug deaths
Low immunization coverage among teens
Limited availability of primary care physicians

4. Connecticut

2013 Rank: 7
Change: +3

Connecticut, the 4th-healthiest state in the U.S. this year, has a low prevalence of smoking, high immunization coverage among children, and a low occupational fatalities rate.

Challenges:
High prevalence of binge drinking
High rate of preventable hospitalizations
Large disparity in health status by education level

HEALTH.COM: 15 Ways Smoking Ruins Your Looks

3. Massachusetts

2013 Rank: 4
Change: +1

Massachusetts is the third-healthiest state in the nation in 2014. In the past two years, drug deaths have decreased by 9% and the rate of physical inactivity has decreased 11%. Massachusetts also has more residents with health insurance than any other state.

Challenges:
High prevalence of binge drinking
High rate of preventable hospitalizations
Large disparity in health status by education level

2. Vermont

2013 Rank: 2
Change: None

The runner-up—and the healthiest state in the continental U.S.—is Vermont. Vermont has the highest high school graduation rate in the country, a low percentage of children in poverty, and a low violent crime rate. In the last year, binge drinking has decreased 11% (though it’s still a challenge), and in the last two years, smoking has declined by 13%.

Challenges:
High prevalence of binge drinking
Low immunization coverage among children
Large disparity in health status by education level

1. Hawaii

2013 Rank: 1
Change: None

For the second year in a row, Hawaii earns the honor of healthiest state in America. Relatively few people in the Aloha State are obese, the cancer rate is low, and the state has the lowest rate of preventable hospitalizations in the country. Smoking has decreased by 21% in the last two years, and binge drinking has declined by 15%.

Challenges:
High prevalence of binge drinking
High incidence of infectious disease
Low immunization coverage among children

HEALTH.COM: 27 Mistakes Healthy People Make

The 10 Least Healthy States

41. Indiana

2013 Rank: 41
Change: None

With 31.8% of adults obese, 28.3% of adults never exercising, and a huge air pollution problem, Indiana comes in at number 41.

Strengths:
Low incidence of infectious disease
Low percentage of children in poverty
High immunization coverage among teens

42. South Carolina

2013 Rank: 43
Change: +1

Coming in at 42, South Carolina is struggling to keep its children healthy: it has a low rate of high school graduation, high prevalence of low birth weight, and ranks in the bottom half of the states for the immunization of children. It also has high rates of obesity, diabetes, and physical inactivity.

Strengths:
Low prevalence of binge drinking
Low incidence of pertussis
Low rate of preventable hospitalizations

HEALTH.COM: Could You Have Type 2? 10 Diabetes Symptoms

The 10 Least Healthy States

43. Alabama

2013 Rank: 47
Change: +4

Ranking 43rd overall, Alabama has the highest diabetes rate in the nation, at 13.8% of adults—a 17% increase over the last two years. The state also has a high prevalence of low birth weight and a limited availability of dentists.

Strengths:
Low prevalence of binge drinking
High immunization coverage among children
Small disparity in health status by education level

44. West Virginia

2013 Rank: 46
Change: +2

With 27.3% of the adult population lighting up, West Virginia has the highest prevalence of smoking in America. It also has more drug deaths than any other state, as well as the second-highest obesity rate.

Strengths:
Low prevalence of binge drinking
Low incidence of infectious disease
High per capita health funding

45. Tennessee

2013 Rank: 42
Change: -3

Tennessee ranks 50th for violent crime, 49th for physical inactivity, 47th for obesity, and 45th overall.

Strengths:
Low prevalence of binge drinking
Low incidence of pertussis
Ready availability of primary care physicians

46. Oklahoma

2013 Rank: 44
Change: -2

Ranking 46th, the Sooner State has a high prevalence of physical inactivity, low immunization coverage among children, and a limited availability of primary care physicians. Since 1990, violent crime has increased 12%, while the nationwide rate dropped 37% during the same time period.

Strengths:
Low prevalence of binge drinking
Low incidence of pertussis
Low prevalence of low birth weight

47. Kentucky

2013 Rank: 45
Change: -2

While lots of people in Kentucky smoke, very few of them exercise, a combination that lands the Bluegrass State at number 47. Kentucky also suffers from a high percentage of children in poverty and a high rate of preventable hospitalizations.

Strengths:
Low prevalence of binge drinking
Low violent crime rate
High immunization coverage among children

HEALTH.COM: 20 Filling Foods That Help You Lose Weight

48. Louisiana

2013 Rank: 48
Change: None

Louisiana ranks 48th in 2014 thanks to its high incidence of infectious disease, high prevalence of low birth weight, and high rate of preventable hospitalizations.

Strengths:
Low incidence of pertussis
High immunization coverage among teens
Small disparity in health status by education level

49. Arkansas

2013 Rank: 49
Change: None

Coming in second to last—same as in 2013—Arkansas has a high incidence of infectious disease, a limited availability of dentists, and low immunization coverage among children. Additionally, obesity has increased 12% over the last two years.

Strengths:
Low prevalence of binge drinking
High per capita public health funding
Small disparity in health status by education level

50. Mississippi

2013 Rank: 50
Change: None

For the third year in a row, the least-healthy state in the U.S. is Mississippi. Mississippi ranks last on six measures: physical inactivity, rate of infectious disease, low birthweight, infant mortality, cardiovascular deaths, and premature deaths.

Strengths:
Low prevalence of binge drinking
High immunization coverage among children
Small disparity in health status by education level

This article originally appeared on Health.com

TIME LGBT

Meet the Republican Who Lost His Election Fighting for LGBT Rights

Michigan House of Representatives Photographer Mike Quillinan Michigan Rep. Frank Foster (R) speaks on the floor in the Michigan House of Representatives in Lansing.

A young star in Michigan is spending his final days as a lawmaker working to expand the state's civil rights protections

In Michigan, a 28-year-old Republican state lawmaker is using his lame-duck session to fight for a bill that cost him his reelection in a primary this summer. Rep. Frank Foster is trying to extend the state’s civil rights act—which protects people from discrimination on the basis of age, race, religion, sex and weight—to also include sexual orientation. Even though he puts his bill at a 10% chance of passing, he says he has no regrets. “This is important, and if it’s not law in 2014, we’re still having the conversation,” Foster tells TIME. “Until it’s equal, it’s not equal.”

On Dec. 3, the commerce committee, of which Foster is the chair, was the site of a heated debate about tolerance and persecution. The public was invited to give testimony on Foster’s bill and another bill to amend the civil rights act to include both sexual orientation and gender identity. Supporters of the bills made arguments that passing them wasn’t just about protecting another class of citizens but about Michigan’s reputation and making the state feel welcoming to the broadest possible array of workers and companies.

One of those testifying in support was Allan Gilmour, a former second-in-command at Ford who made headlines when he came out as gay after his first retirement from the company in 1995. Updating the law, he said, “is necessary if Michigan is to attract and retain talent. And on an individual basis, no one should live in fear that they will lose their job or injure their careers should they live openly.”

Those opposing the bills, largely representatives from Christian groups, argued that the measures threaten to jeopardize religious freedoms, like those of Christian small-business owners who would prefer not to bake a cake or take photographs for a same-sex wedding—and might lose their business license for such a refusal under an amended civil rights law. “Why should that baker or photographer be forced against their religious beliefs and conscience to participate in that? And if they refuse to because of their religious conscience, to be put out of business?” said David Kallman, speaking on behalf of Michigan Family Forum, a conservative Christian organization. Multiple speakers also argued that there was no hard data showing that LGBT discrimination was a problem that needing solving. (There are reports on the issue and more research is being done on the topic.)

After giving his own testimony, Foster oversaw the meeting stoically, with one exception. Stacy Swimp, President of the National Christian Leadership Council, gave a speech about how he was “rather offended” that anyone would equate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans to black Americans when it came to fights for civil rights. “They have never had to drink out of a LGBT water fountain,” he said, recounting that black Americans had been lynched and denied many basic rights in the past. He called any comparison “intellectually empty, dishonest” and accused the LGBT community of exploiting the struggles of black Americans.

Once he finished, Foster pulled his own microphone toward him. “Sir, I will agree with you on the fact that African Americans in this country’s short history have been discriminated against,” he said. “But if you don’t think the LGBT community has been discriminated against, been drug behind cars, been hung up by their necks til they’re dead, been denied housing, been denied commerce opportunities, then you’re just not looking very far.”

It was an impassioned speech from a native Michigander who never met a homosexual person until going to college at Grand Valley State University. Foster grew up in the tiny town of Pellston (pop. 831) in the midst of his current district, which spans the water where the state’s upper and lower peninsulas nearly meet. It’s an area known for fishing and hunting and tourism on islands like Mackinac, whose residents are also among his constituents. It’s also socially conservative.

By the time he finished his degree at Grand Valley State, Foster had been elected student body president, twice. He had organized rallies and marches against an amendment to ban affirmative action (which eventually passed by a nearly 20-point margin in 2006). He had accompanied administrators to Washington, D.C., to argue for better higher education funding. And he had worked to get gender identity added to non-discrimination policies in the student and faculty handbooks. “That was really the first time I socialized with people of different ethnic backgrounds and different races,” he says. “College was the way it was supposed to be for me.” He won his first race for a seat in the state House of Representatives in 2010, with 63% of the vote, and became one of only two freshmen to be appointed committee chairs.

After Foster was reelected in 2012, a Democratic colleague approached him about helping to support a non-discrimination bill. Like many people—one poll put the number at 87%—Foster assumed it was already illegal to fire someone for their sexual orientation, though there is no federal protection and only 21 states have passed such a law (18 of those, and D.C.’s, also include gender identity). Eventually, Foster and his colleague decided it would be more powerful if the Republican didn’t just co-sponsor the bill but introduced it. “I had no idea we did not have those folks included in Michigan’s civil rights act. When I found that out, it became a passion of mine,” he says, adding that he thought “as a young Republican, I could communicate to my colleagues and the party where we needed to go.”

Before Foster got around to actually introducing a bill, word got out that he planned to and he did interviews that confirmed people’s suspicions. In late 2013, Foster also called for the resignation of his Republican colleague Dave Agema, who caused an uproar after posting an article on Facebook that decried the “filthy” homosexual lifestyle. Agema was among those who encouraged a teacher at a Christian academy—who was considering running for Foster’s seat when he hit his term limit in 2016—to run against Foster in 2014 instead. Foster says his opponent, Lee Chatfield, gave him a deadline to publicly come out against legislation that would amend the civil rights act. “I wasn’t able to make that deadline, didn’t want to make that deadline,” says Foster. “So he filed in January and made this the center point of the campaign.” Foster lost by less than 1,000 votes in the primary against Chatfield, who had support from the Tea Party.

That loss not only cost Foster his job, but hurt his chances of getting the bill passed. The prospects had been looking good. He and other supporters of the bill had been rallying support among his fellow Republicans and gained the backing of the Michigan Competitive Workforce Coalition, a group with big-name members like Chrysler, Delta Airlines, Google and Kellogg that formed to support the legislation. “After my election, they slowly faded away,” Foster says of his GOP colleagues. “It was a pretty successful, religious-mounted campaign that beat me, and if that can happen in my community, that can happen anywhere.”

Foster says he’d like to see a bill pass that includes both sexual orientation and gender identity but had limited his to the former thinking that it would have a better chance of passing. When Michigan’s civil rights act was proposed in the 1970s—named Elliott-Larsen for the lawmakers who championed it—the inclusion of sexual orientation threatened to kill the bill, so it was removed. “Forty years later, here we are still trying to add sexual orientation, and it’s the transgender piece that was slowing the bill down,” Foster says. He also knows that by compromising, he may lose the support of Democrats. “Democrats are not going to vote for anything less than fully inclusive, and Republicans will not vote for fully inclusive,” he says. “So, in my mind, we’re sort of stuck.”

After winning his reelection, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, sat down with the Detroit Free Press and its editorial board reported that “he will encourage the Legislature to take up an expansion of the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act to also include the LGBT community, prohibiting discrimination in hiring and housing decisions.” Foster is somewhat hanging his hopes on that report. “He can add some muscle to the argument and help me get this thing across the line,” Foster says. For now, both bills remain in the commerce committee. After potentially being voted out, a bill still has to win a floor vote in the House before repeating the process in the Senate.

Regardless of what happens, Foster is going home at the end of the session. He’ll work full time at Rehabitat Systems, a company which provides long-term care to people with traumatic brain and spinal-cord injuries, where he’s currently an executive officer. Right now, he’s frustrated with where the two-party system has gotten him. “I don’t want to necessarily be in the box anymore, where if I’m Republican it means I’m x, y and z,” he says. “The rest of my demographic, the 20-somethings, don’t think that way.”

But he says he’d like to have another go at being a Republican politician down the line, especially because their fiscal policies resonate so strongly with him. “There needs to be some more time,” Foster says. “My party has to change some of its social stances. And if that can happen, I think I’ll become more appealing to the party and vice versa.”

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