Mississippi Governor signs sweeping ‘religious freedoms’ bill
Mississippi has broken new ground with a sweeping “religious freedoms” bill which will allow private businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ citizens.
HB 1523 details a number of cases in which “the state government shall not take any discriminatory action against a religious organization wholly or partially” if they refuse a services based on their religious belief.
NPR said MS’s law differs from other religious freedom bills because it targets three specific beliefs:
that marriage is between a man and a woman, that sex is “properly reserved to such a marriage,” and that words like “male” and “female” are “objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at birth.”
Provisions of the bill include:
- Making it legal to deny solemnization of any marriage, or provide or decline to provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, formation, celebration or recognition of any marriage
- Allowing an employer to make any employment-related decision including, but not limited to, the decision whether or not to hire, terminate or discipline an individual whose conduct or religious beliefs are inconsistent with those of the religious organization
- Allow a business owner to makes any decision concerning the sale, rental, occupancy of, or terms and conditions of occupying a dwelling or other housing under its control in accordance with their religious beliefs
- allow county clerks to deny marriage licenses to same sex couples, and also allows them to speak or engage in “expressive conduct based upon or in a manner consistent with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction”
- Doctors can decline to participate in the provision of treatments, counseling, or surgeries related to sex reassignment or gender identity transitioning or decline to participate in the provision of psychological, counseling, or fertility services
MS Governor Phil Bryant took to twitter to defend his actions after singing the bill yesterday.
“I am signing HB 1523 into law to protect the sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions of individuals, organizations, and private associations from discriminatory action by state government or its political subdivisions,” he said in a statement. “This bill merely reinforces the rights which currently exist to the exercise of religious freedom as stated in the First Amendment of the U.S. Condition.”
He’s not wrong – much like here in Virginia, LGBTQ people already lack protections in the workforce, housing, and public accommodations in MS. This law, however, would stop the state from ever taking action against a business if such legal steps were taken.
“Gov Phil Bryant adds his name to a list of disgraced Southern governors by signing this hateful and discriminatory bill into law,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin in a statement put out by HRC following the bill’s passage into law. “Governor Bryant refused to meet with LGBT people and even turned us away at the door of his office. He refused to listen to business leaders. He refused to listen to Mississippians. And now his state will suffer because of his ignorance and failure of leadership. Just as we’re doing elsewhere, we will continue to rally fair-minded voters, businesses, and civil rights advocates to repeal.”
This bill follows on the heels of North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory singing a similar religious freedoms bill, but economic backlash has already hit, with tech giant PayPal canceling a proposed expansion in Charlotte, in what was once considered a more progressive Southern state.
“This is a sad day for the state of Mississippi and for the thousands of Mississippians who can now be turned away from businesses, refused marriage licenses, or denied housing, essential services and needed care based on who they are,” Jennifer Riley-Collins, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi. “This bill flies in the face of the basic American principles of fairness, justice and equality and will not protect anyone’s religious liberty. Far from protecting anyone from ‘government discrimination’ as the bill claims, it is an attack on the citizens of our state, and it will serve as the Magnolia State’s badge of shame.”
top image via reddit
“The district court’s decision is ripe for reversal and we are confident that, as this case moves ahead, it will be reversed.”December 19, 2016
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