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Bill Passed by Mississippi Legislature Allows Discrimination Legally on Basis of Religion
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On Tuesday, the Mississippi Legislature passed a bill that allows individuals and businesses to legally discriminate on the basis of their religion. Senate and the State House consented a conference report on SB 2681, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, even as the House states, that it’s version of the bill was on hold based on objections about the implications for discrimination. The bill was passed by a vote of 78-43 in the House and 38-14 in the Senate. Both votes were dominated by Republicans.

Now, Gov. Phil Bryant has the task of deciding if the bill should be signed, he has not said if he will sign the legislation. The bill will go into effect July 1 if signed. Mississippi law defines a “person” to include “all public and private corporations,” ThinkProgress noted. If the bill becomes law, businesses in the state would be allowed to discriminate for religious reasons. There’s no mention in the bill of sexual orientation, “gay” or gender identity. LGBT advocates are seeing this bill as an attempt to alienate non-straight communities.


“Before Mississippi has had the opportunity to robustly discuss the lived experiences of LGBT people, this bill would hollow out any non-discrimination protection protections at the local level or possible future state-wide protections,” Sarah Warbelow, Human Rights Campaign’s state legislative director, told the Washington Blade. “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.”

There is no local nondiscrimination protections for LGBT person. Human Rights Campaign said the bill could further complicate any effort at the future state nondiscrimination laws, undermine licensing organizations that offer protections to LGBT individuals, and undercut public university non-discrimination policies.

People that back the bill said they do not promote discriminatory behavior, yet supporters of the bill refuse service to same-sex couples around the country Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins said the law hews closely to the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, supported by Democrats and signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton.

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“This is a victory for the First Amendment and the right to live and work according to one’s conscience,” Perkins said. “This commonsense measure was a no-brainer for freedom, and like the federal RFRA, it simply bars government discrimination against religious exercise. The legislature gave strong approval to a bill that individuals do not have to trade their religious freedom for entrance into public commerce.”

Morgan Miller of the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi said,  comparisons to RFRA are misguided. “This bill still open the door for someone who wants to use their religion to discriminate against others,” Miller said. “It exposes virtually every branch and office of the government to litigation; our state will have to spend taxpayer money to defend lawsuits. It’s unnecessary: the Mississippi legislature has been unable to articulate why this law is needed in our state.

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