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.”

Comments

  1. Chadd says

    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.

  2. Sean says

    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.

  3. Bernie says

    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!

  4. dixichuk says

    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.

  5. Steve says

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

  6. john patrick says

    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.

  7. Homo Genius says

    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!

  8. JackFknTwist says

    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.

  9. Randy says

    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.

  10. Carmelo says

    Wanna molest that 16 year old girl that works in your store “Jesus told me to!”

  11. Gregory in Seattle says

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

  12. Craig says

    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.

  13. Steve says

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

  14. Lexis says

    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?

  15. wct says

    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!

  16. says

    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!

  17. RayJacksonMS says

    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

  18. Zathras says

    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.

  19. CHOCOLATEBEARCUB says

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

  20. Chrislam says

    The Bible says slavery is ok. I guess Mississippians will be exercising their religious freedoms…..

  21. Truthseeker says

    My religion prohibits me from paying a tax to earthly governments, so guess I can keep all that extra money and maybe send some of it to my church.

  22. says

    People just need to make sure they have guns and push for stand your ground laws, that way, if u are LGBT and are intimidated by religious folks using their beliefs to trump laws that protect you can be shot. It would be like being black and the KKK is allowed to burn crosses on your lawn or deny you a meal at a restaurant, making living a very intimidating time, so those intimidating, religious folks, need to stay away, because they threaten your day to day doings, and of the gov allows it, the 2nd amendment comes into play. Guns are the answer to all gov over reach and religious majority trumping minority rights.

  23. Dan Mc. says

    Can’t we just move everyone in Mississippi to Uganda and then turn the state into a wildlife preserve?

  24. disgusted american says

    avoid Mississippi like the plague of Hate, bigotry and dscrimintion it is !!

  25. cityboy says

    So businesses can refuse to pay state taxes if they claim it’s against their religion? Serve ’em right…

  26. Lucas H says

    Well, its Mississippi we’re talking about here… how long do you think until someone OTHER THAN CHRISTIAN exercises their religion in defiance of state laws, regulations, municipalities or ordinances??? I can already see the pearl clutching and red-faced self-righteous anger when this bill turns around and bites them.

  27. Bob R says

    It’s Mississippi, so what can you do? Mississippi is one of those states on my list that I would never visit for any reason.

    I’d say boycott them, but what do they contribute to the marketplace other than hatred and ignorance? They are almost always 50th out of 50 when it comes to just about every worthwhile metric. They are, as a state, a national parasite. Alabama and Louisiana appreciate Mississippi only because the state makes them seem less archaic.

    This will hurt them economically in the end and no doubt they’ll spend millions defending the law in court. But regardless, it will be decades before Mississippi is dragged kicking and screaming into the 19th century.

  28. says

    It violates my religion to pay Mississippi taxes, license my car, not drink & drive, & if someone cuts me off in traffic my religion says i MUST shoot them.
    Who else wants to join the 1st Church of ME?

  29. Montas says

    Religion is poison. How ANY LGBT is still religious when SOOOOO many religious forces work to enslave us is what is most fascinating.

  30. calpoidog says

    Hope after it passes none of the Christian lawmakers need assistance from a Muslim physician…..

  31. says

    Phil Ochs had it right many years ago:

    Corporations that are headquartered in Mississippi but connected to many communities include: Hancock Fabric Stores, Viking Ranges and Peavey sound equipment. Visit a local appliance dealer or music store and share your views on Mississippi.

  32. Bill says

    While our disfunctional congress wouldn’t pass it, there is a very simple law that would help immensely: that in any case in which a government enacts an unconstitutional law, the government is fully responsible for the plaintiff’s costs if the law is overturned in court.

  33. JJ says

    Some lists of Mississippi companies. Executive summary: next to nothing:

    Wikipedia:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Companies_based_in_Mississippi

    CNN Money, confirming there are zero Fortune 500 companies in MS:
    http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune500/2012/states/MS.html

    Inc.com’s top 5000, eight of which are in MS:
    http://www.inc.com/inc5000/list/2012/state/ms

    Mississippi Business Journal’s top 10 private companies (a free excerpt from their Top 100):
    http://msbusiness.com/lists/?djoPage=view_html&djoPid=24449

  34. David Neubecker says

    I looked for corporations that are headquartered in MS, and just as I thought, there aren’t many. The one that stood out is Viking Range- founded and headquartered in Mississippi. I would love to hear what this company thinks about this law and what types of protections it has in place for LGBT employees?? They may be a good target for a Boycott to send a message that no business tied to Mississippi is free to treat LGBT citizens as second class without being brought to public light. Boycotts are usually not very effective, but a high end kitchen range needs to stay popular with home designers, and all those LGBT home owners with kitchen remodeling projects in the horizon.