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Mississippi’s ‘Religious Liberty’ Bill Doesn’t Just Target LGBT Community

© Flickr / Ken LundMississippi State Capitol in Jackson, Mississippi
Mississippi State Capitol in Jackson, Mississippi - Sputnik International
Proposed anti-LGBT legislation in the state of Mississippi details how people can legally hide behind religious beliefs, discriminating against others without consequence, and it isn’t just the gay community who should be worried.

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The HB 1523 bill, also know as, “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” has passed in the state’s House and  Senate.

“HB 1523 would allow state employees, corporations, individuals, healthcare providers, and nonprofit organizations to use religion as a justification to discriminate against nearly everyone—same sex couples, single mothers, divorcees, and anyone who has had sex outside of marriage. And considering a 2006 study showed that nearly 95% of Americans have had sex outside marriage, that’s most people who live, work, or visit Mississippi,” a nonprofit group, Protect Thy Neighbor, working for the separation of church and state, wrote of the bill.

The bill states that sincerely-held religious beliefs or moral convictions protected by this act are:

(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.

The bill specifically lists all the ways in which people will be allowed to discriminate against others without repercussion.

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:

  • Photography
  • Poetry
  • Videography
  • Disc-Jockey Services
  • Wedding Planning
  • Printing
  • Publishing
  • 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.

Protect Thy Neighbor warns that there will be dire consequences should the bill pass, and detailed a list of hypothetical situations.

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“A government clerk could refuse to issue a marriage license to a couple because one person had been previously divorced; a taxpayer-funded organization that provides shelter to kids who have suffered child abuse could turn away a pregnant teenager; a corporation could fire a woman for wearing pants; a counseling group practice could refuse to see a mother and her teen who is experiencing severe depression because the woman is unmarried.”

The bill would also make cities unable to ratify their own anti-LGBT discrimination laws, as it would preempt any municipal laws which would conflict with it.

Interestingly, on Thursday, a federal court overturned the Mississippi ban on same-sex couples adopting children.

“Obergefell obviously reflects conflicting judicial philosophies,” US District Judge Daniel Jordan III wrote in the preliminary injunction against the ban.  “While an understanding of those positions is necessary for this ruling, it is not this Court’s place nor intent to criticize either approach. The majority of the United States Supreme Court dictates the law of the land, and lower courts are bound to follow it. In this case, that means that section 93-17 3(5) violates the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.”

The discriminatory bill is now headed to the Governor Phil Bryant’s desk, but he has not said if he will sign the legislation.

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