On Monday Mississippi’s GOP-led House successfully passed HB1523, which is designed to allow legalized discrimination against the LGBT community.
Unlike other “Religious Freedom” bills, HB1523 doesn’t try to disguise its true intentions but rather it spells out its discriminatory goals explicitly. On Mississippi’s online legislation page for HB1523, it describes the bill as “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act.”
Here are a few of the disturbing sections contained within this bill. You can read the law in its entirety here.
SECTION 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act.”
SECTION 2. 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.
The bill also explicitly allows state employees to discriminate and not serve LGBT people. Many refer to this provision as the “Kim Davis” rule:
The state government shall not take any discriminatory action against a state employee wholly or partially on the basis that such employee lawfully speaks or engages in expressive conduct based upon or in a manner consistent with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction described in Section 2 of this act, so long as:
(a) If the employee’s speech or expressive conduct occurs in the workplace, that speech or expressive conduct is consistent with the time, place, manner and frequency of any other expression of a religious, political, or moral belief or conviction allowed; or
(b) If the employee’s speech or expressive conduct occurs outside the workplace, that speech or expressive conduct is in the employee’s personal capacity and outside the course of performing work duties.
(8) (a) Any person employed or acting on behalf of the state government who has authority to authorize or license marriages, including, but not limited to, clerks, registers of deeds or their deputies, may seek recusal from authorizing or licensing lawful marriages based upon or in a manner consistent with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction described in Section 2 of this act. Any person making such recusal shall provide prior written notice to the State Registrar of Vital Records who shall keep a record of such recusal, and the state government shall not take any discriminatory action against that person wholly or partially on the basis of such recusal. The person who is recusing himself or herself shall take all necessary steps to ensure that the authorization and licensing of any legally valid marriage is not impeded or delayed as a result of any recusal.
(b) Any person employed or acting on behalf of the state government who has authority to perform or solemnize marriages, including, but not limited to, judges, magistrates, justices of the peace or their deputies, may seek recusal from performing or solemnizing lawful marriages based upon or in a manner consistent with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction described in Section 2 of this act. Any person making such recusal shall provide prior written notice to the Administrative Office of Courts, and the state government shall not take any discriminatory action against that person wholly or partially on the basis of such recusal. The Administrative Office of Courts shall take all necessary steps to ensure that the performance or solemnization of any legally valid marriage is not impeded or delayed as a result of any recusal.
Mississipi Governor Phil Bryant signed the bill into law on Tuesday. He barely attempts to justify his decision.
This bill does not limit any constitutionally protected rights or actions of any citizen of this state under federal or state laws,” Bryant claimed in a statement. “The legislation is designed in the most targeted manner possible to prevent government interference in the lives of the people from which all power to the state is derived.
And of course, the Southern Baptist Convention is delighted with Mississipi’s new law. In a statement they said:
HB 1523, which the Mississippi House passed earlier today, is a carefully crafted piece of legislation that will protect religious freedom and provide reasonable accommodations for persons holding traditional views on marriage and sexuality. […]
Mississippi has put forth perhaps the best post-Obergefell legislation to date. We commend the legislature for its work and voice our strong support for Governor Bryant to advance the cause of liberty by signing this bill into law.
State Democrats tried but failed to reason with the Republican majority. One state representative expressed his frustration.
This is the most hateful bill I have seen in my career in the legislature,” Rep. Stephen Holland said, urging his colleagues to reverse their vote the previous week to approve the bill. “You ought to be ashamed of yourself,” he fumed. “You are doing nothing but discrimination.
As was the case with North Carolina and more recently Georgia, many companies have already expressed concern and signaled possibly leaving Mississippi if this new law is allowed to stand.
Jay C. Moon of the Mississippi Manufacturers Association also warned: “It is clear that many of our members find that HB 1523 would violate their corporate policies expressly providing for an inclusive workplace environment that supports diversity. This is not a bill that the MMA supports and we hope that it will not find its way into law.
One of the biggest concerns regarding this law is the “slippery slope” it represents. While it explicitly spells out what groups people with “sincerely held religious belief” can legally discriminate against, many suspect inevitably there will be cases where other groups like Muslims and Interracial couples will also face discrimination under this law.
And the message the governor and state lawmakers are sending to LGBT children growing up in their state is undeniable. With LGBT teen suicide rates being comparatively higher than among the general population, this law is sure to destroy even more lives.
It’s ironic that Mississippi calls itself the “hospitality state,” because its hostility toward anyone who’s not straight, white, and Christian has been well documented over decades. Ask most African-Americans if the would accept an all expenses paid seven-day vacation in rural Mississippi, and their reactions would range from “are you kidding?” to “HELL NO.”
Here are two videos on this story.
There is also the small matter of the higher courts, who will strike this law down. At the end of the day, Mississippi will have wasted a lot of taxpayer dollars to pass a law that they know will be ruled illegal by the courts. But Mississippi is just one southern state who believes that obstinance in the face of social justice is a virtue.
With that said, it’s unclear if Mississippi will be swayed by political or economic pressure seeing as it’s usually one of the lowest ranked states in any area used to measure a civilization. This video may help explain why it’s unlikely any economic disincentives will make Mississipi change its mind anytime soon.
Featured image Screengrab via YouTube.