House and Senate have passed HB 1523, “Religious Liberty Accommodation Act”
Allows state employees, corporations, individuals, healthcare providers, and nonprofit organizations to use religion as a justification for discrimination
In the wake of North Carolina’s outrageous legislation outlawing LGBT protections and prohibiting cities or towns from enacting stricter guidelines, newly signed into law last week by Governor Pat McCrory, many other states have moved to use “religious liberties” as a pretense for the outright denial of civil liberties to persons based on their sexual orientation.
Since North Carolina’s passing of HB2, Republican-held legislatures in Nebraska, Minnesota, have followed suit, and two weeks earlier Missouri passed similar legislation. Additionally, Alabama sought to deny same-sex couples equal adoption rights before SCOTUS quickly squashed this attempt in early March.
Yet, of all the bills considered and enacted legally enabling discrimination against the LGBT community, Mississippi’s latest is perhaps the most explicitly grotesque. The bill, HB-1523, spells out in specific detail the myriad of ways that a person should be able to mistreat and actively deny civil liberties to fellow citizens based on their presumed (or stated) sexual orientation without any consequences from the government.
Yesterday, the Mississippi Senate voted 31-17 to approve the HB-1523, known officially as “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” following up from the House’s overwhelming 80-39 approval last month.
It is now returning to the House for concurrence with an amendment, and Governor Phil Bryant has indicated that he will sign it into law immediately.
Not only does the bill pretend to not be neutral; it additionally only protects people with anti-LGBT religious beliefs and nobody else.
— Bryan Dorr (@BJDorr) March 30, 2016
— Irish Lass (@irshlas74) March 30, 2016
Among other statements, it stipulates the following:
- The sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions protected by this act are the belief or conviction that:
- (a) Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman;
(b) Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage; and
(c) Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.
- Religious organizations can decline to solemnize any marriage or provide any services related to recognizing that marriage.
- Religious organizations can refuse to hire, fire, and discipline employees for violating the organization’s religious beliefs.
- Religious organizations can choose not to sell, rent, or otherwise provide shelter.
- Religious organizations that provide foster or adoptive services can decline service without risking their state subsidies.
- Any foster or adoptive parent can impose their religious beliefs on their children.
- Any person can choose not to provide treatment, counseling, or surgery related to gender transition or same-sex parenting.
- Any person (including any business) can choose not to provide services for any marriage ceremony or occasion that involves recognizing a marriage, including:
- Disc-Jockey Services
- Wedding Planning
- Floral Arrangements
- Dress Making
- Cake or Pastry Artistry
- Assembly-Hall or Other Wedding-Venue Rentals
- Limousine or Other Car-Service Rentals
- Jewelry Sales And Services
- Any person can establish “sex-specific standards or policies concerning employee or student dress or grooming,” and can manage the access of restrooms and other sex-segregated facilities.
- Any state employee can openly express their beliefs without consequence.
- Any state employee can choose not to authorize or license legal marriages by recusing themselves from those duties.
So how might this discrimination play out once enacted into law?
Protect Thy Neighbor, a project of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, outlines the many hypothetical situations for how this discrimination could legally be permitted consequence-free, and unsurprisingly the vast majority of it impacts the LGBT community.
Among them include an adoption agency refusing to place a child with a family if the parents lived together before they were married, a counselor refusing to help an LGBT teen who called a suicide hotline, a car rental agency refusing to rent a car to a same-sex couple for use on their honeymoon, and a private sector company firing a woman for wearing pants.
But of course, according to GOP Senator Jenifer Branning – the bill’s primary author who said it was drafted in response to the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision legalizing same-sex marriage – this is AGAINST discrimination, not in favor of it.
You know, the type of wretched discrimination that heterosexual, Christian, Caucasians face on a routine basis in the American South!
“This isn’t a bill to allow any type of discrimination at all,” said Branning. “As a matter of fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s about protecting the religious freedom of those who don’t feel they can with a clean conscience assist a same-sex couple.”
Ah, “Religious Liberty” that old trick. Because it is far better to allow a suicidal LGBT teen displaced from her home to kill herself than to trouble oneself with compromising one’s “christian values.”
In a statement prior to the bill’s passage, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said “This legislation moves Mississippi backward, undermining equality for its residents and jeopardizing its ability to attract and retain fair-minded businesses. Governor Bryant should be paying close attention to the backlash against discrimination in Georgia, where Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a terrible anti-LGBT bill, and in North Carolina, where fair-minded people and the broader business community are calling on state leaders to repudiate and repeal the discriminatory law passed last week. Mississippi’s economy and its reputation hang in the balance.”
Injustice.in can only hope that the states rallying against North Carolina move quickly to follow suit in Mississippi.
That and, you know, winning some GOP-held state legislatures this November, too.