Discrimination | Mississippi

Mississippi Legislature Passes Anti-Gay 'Religious Freedom' Bill

Less than a month after the Mississippi legislature sent the state’s Senate Bill 2681 (aka the “license to discriminate bill”) to committee for review, it returned — and has now passed, the Washington Blade reports:

IMississippi_flagn a development that largely went unnoticed on the national stage, the State House and Senate on the same day both approved a conference report for S.B. 2681, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The vote in the Republican-controlled House was 78-43 and the vote in the Republican-controlled Senate vote was 38-14.

Much like the controversial Arizona bill known as SB 1062 vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer, the six-page legislation never once mentions the words “sexual orientation,” “gender identity” or “gay.” Still, LGBT advocates insist the legislation would have the effect of allowing discriminatory practices against LGBT people seeking services in Mississippi.

The bill would allow businesses to deny service to LGBT people while claiming “exercise of religion.” But new text added to the resurrected bill would allow businesses to defy any “state laws, rules, regulations, and municipal and county ordinances” as long as they did so under “exercise of religion.”

The bill closely resembles the bill that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed in February. Keep in mind the the NFL, MLB, Intel, Apple and the last two Republican presidential candidates all spoke out against Arizona’s bill.

BryantDeep South Progressive reported on the bill yesterday:

The point, of course, is to say that there is almost nothing over which a claim of religious belief does not take precedence. A law doesn’t have to be intended to interfere with religious exercise; a religious person just has to claim it interferes.

This version of the bill goes beyond protecting free exercise of religion, instead solidly establishing claims of religious exercise in a privileged position above all else... That could jeopardize recent advances made in Starkville, Hattiesburg, and Oxford, where anti-discrimination effort – including discrimination against LGBT people and other minority – via diversity resolutions have passed to great fanfare in recent months.

The Blade adds:

Sarah Warbelow, the Human Rights Campaign’s state legislative director, said the bill would in essence make “LGBT people strangers to the law.”

“Before Mississippi has had the opportunity to robustly discuss the lived experiences of LGBT people, this bill would hollow out any non-discrimination protections at the local level or possible future state-wide protections,” Warbelow said. “Just as we’ve seen in other states, this bill is bad for business, bad for the state’s reputation, and most of all, bad for Mississippians. Gov. Bryant must veto the measure.”

The ACLU released a statement about the bill's passage:

If Governor Phil Bryant (pictured) signs, the law will go into effect on July 1, 2014

“We remain hopeful that courts throughout the state will reject any attempts to use religion to justify discrimination,” said Jennifer Riley-Collins, executive director of the ACLU of Mississippi. “Nobody should be refused service because of who they are.”

The law could allow individuals and businesses to bring challenges against what they view as substantial government burdens against religion, including challenging existing nondiscrimination laws. Legislatures across the country, including in Georgia, Idaho, Maine, and Ohio, have rejected similar measures. On February 26, 2014, Governor Jan Brewer vetoed Arizona’s version. Bills are still pending in Missouri and Oklahoma.

“Even though the Mississippi legislature removed some of the egregious language from Arizona’s infamous SB 1062, we are disappointed that it passed this unnecessary law and ignored the national, public outcry against laws of this nature,” said Eunice Rho, advocacy and policy counsel with the ACLU. “We will continue to fight in state legislatures across the country to ensure that religious freedom remains a shield, not a sword.”

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  1. How long will it take for a person to get away with murder for killing a gay person because God told them to? This law seems to allow it - so long as the person committing the crime believes earnestly that they have divine direction.

    Posted by: Chadd | Apr 1, 2014 8:54:09 PM

  2. Woe be unto Mississippi.

    Posted by: Michael | Apr 1, 2014 8:58:04 PM

  3. Unconstitutional. Hope the anti-gays are ready to have it applied to them because if they can refuse service to gays then gays can refuse service to them and they better not scream "persecution". Let the sit-ins, protests, and civil unrest commence. There will be NO peace for anti-gay trash.

    Posted by: Sean | Apr 1, 2014 9:04:25 PM

  4. this is sad,but keep in mind that Mississippi wanted pass a Personhood bill that would have stated birth begins at inception or when the penis hits the v-g......this certainly would have led to outlawing abortions in the state; I honestly don't think these so called religious laws will hold up in court; If I am understanding the law as written, anyone in any setting context, etc could claim "religious" beliefs.....a surgeon in the middle of surgery; a bank teller; anyone! any place!

    Posted by: Bernie | Apr 1, 2014 9:06:11 PM

  5. God damn Mississippi.

    Posted by: Jeff | Apr 1, 2014 9:10:29 PM

  6. Fore-warning: Every single Democrat needs to get to the polls for every single election between now and the next president or it could all turn and this will be the norm. Remember, more than half of our own states still legally can hate us.

    Posted by: dixichuk | Apr 1, 2014 9:16:05 PM

  7. Mississippi, goddamn! Always 50th out of 50. Except in things like poverty, obesity and teenage pregnancies.

    Posted by: Steve | Apr 1, 2014 9:25:42 PM

  8. To the Mississippi legislators, we are worthless, less than human, items to be played with or discarded at will. That is the message they are giving by this law. I am listening to Simon Scharma's History of the Jews. Jews, gays, blacks, women, et.. - all are detritus to be trampled on and left unprotected by the law.

    Posted by: john patrick | Apr 1, 2014 9:27:32 PM

  9. The issue for people in Miss - aside from the Jim Crow aspect - is that the State will waste millions defending this in court and civil law suits will surely follow if anyone exercises this.

    And again, this isn't just about gays and people baking wedding cakes. An unwed mother could be denied service. Women in general could be denied service. Blacks and Native Americans could be denied service. Pharmacies could refuse to sell any form of birth control.

    I just hope there are a lot Mormons in Miss and they refuse to serve people iced tea!

    Posted by: Homo Genius | Apr 1, 2014 9:28:15 PM

  10. But new text added to the resurrected bill would allow businesses to defy any “state laws, rules, regulations, and municipal and county ordinances” as long as they did so under “exercise of religion.

    When I read this I thought it MUST be part of an April Fool's joke.
    Can these people be serious ?
    Have they any concept of the purpose and effect of legislation ?
    This section drives 'a coach and four' through the heart of all legislation.
    It is a carte blanche for looney tunes to refuse to obey rules regulations and laws.
    Incredible ......even if it happened in Africa it would be egregious.

    Posted by: JackFknTwist | Apr 1, 2014 9:29:14 PM

  11. They should call it what it is ... a Religious Supremacy bill.

    It exempts religious people, and no others, from any law, including criminal, unless there is some compelling governmental reason not to exempt them.

    Posted by: Randy | Apr 1, 2014 9:29:25 PM

  12. No speed limits while driving a company car!

    Posted by: Carmelo | Apr 1, 2014 9:32:54 PM

  13. No speed limits while driving a company car!

    Posted by: Carmelo | Apr 1, 2014 9:33:00 PM

  14. Wanna molest that 16 year old girl that works in your store "Jesus told me to!"

    Posted by: Carmelo | Apr 1, 2014 9:34:14 PM

  15. Good. Religious freedoms should trump lascivious and harmful lifestyle choices.

    Posted by: Sam | Apr 1, 2014 9:40:37 PM

  16. Good. Religious freedoms should trump lascivious and harmful lifestyle choices.

    Posted by: MaryM | Apr 1, 2014 9:40:58 PM

  17. A state that is still proud of its treasonous history. Why should we expect anything different?

    Posted by: Gregory in Seattle | Apr 1, 2014 9:48:20 PM

  18. I guess Mississippi won't be hosting the Super Bowl any time soon. I'd recommend a boycott but I can't think of any reason to go there to begin with.

    Posted by: Craig | Apr 1, 2014 9:53:33 PM

  19. Don't be so sure about the courts. Mississippi in the same circuit as Texas and Louisiana.

    Posted by: Steve | Apr 1, 2014 10:29:39 PM

  20. So could a county clerk who's a member of the United Church of Christ defy state law and issue a same-sex couple a marriage license because their religion says it's okay?

    Posted by: Lexis | Apr 1, 2014 11:21:17 PM

  21. Sad.....my 86 year old father just moved there....oh well....I'll travel there for the death bed hours and the funeral....otherwise Mississippi can f*ck off!

    Posted by: wct | Apr 1, 2014 11:31:30 PM

  22. So, let me get this straight--If my religion teaches slavery is appropriate, then wouldn't this law protect me if I decided I wanted to own slaves? The state wouldn't be able to enforce anti-slavery laws because that would infringe on my religious "liberty," correct? Pathetic! This will quickly be found unconstitutional!

    Posted by: Dr. Christopher Blackwell | Apr 1, 2014 11:57:06 PM

  23. Governor Bryant son, Patrick, is a big ole self loathing republican supporting queen that the family keeps hidde. You should all call the gov at 601-359-3150 and remind him this law applies to his gay son too

    Posted by: RayJacksonMS | Apr 2, 2014 12:30:39 AM

  24. Well, Mississippi just legalized burning witches at the stake, animal sacrifice, genital mutilation, stoning adulterers, peyote-fueled blood orgies, infanticide, flying airplanes into buildings, strangling outcasts with silken cords, cutting out and eating the still-beating hearts of enemy soccer players, and every other violent act mankind has committed in the name of one god or another.

    Posted by: Zathras | Apr 2, 2014 1:59:56 AM

  25. Only thing Dr Blackwell, African Americans aren't behind this law. It's all Caucasian christians hunty. Find another comparison.

    Posted by: CHOCOLATEBEARCUB | Apr 2, 2014 2:05:15 AM

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