Published On: Thu, Apr 7th, 2016

Mississippi Gov Phil Bryant signs bill into law protecting freedom of conscience, called ‘anti-LGBT’

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed House Bill 1523 into law, a bill that supporters believe the new law will protect people’s right to “religious freedom” from “government discrimination,” while critics argue that it’s the “most sweeping anti-LGBT” legislation in the U.S.”


HB 1523 has also been named by lawmakers as the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act.” It protects: Individuals, religious organizations and certain businesses who have “the sincerely held religious belief or moral convictions” that marriage “should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman.” Sexual relations are reserved for that type of marriage. A man and a woman are defined in the law as “an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at the time of birth.”

Those whose religious beliefs and moral convictions are protected by the law can decline a multitude of products and services to people, when lifestyles violate those beliefs and convictions without being penalized by the state of Mississippi.

Photo/Fibonacci Blue via wikimedia commons

Photo/Fibonacci Blue via wikimedia commons

Specifically, religious organizations protected by the law can:

– Decline to “solemnize any marriage” or provide wedding-related services based on their religious beliefs or moral convictions. Those services run a full gamut, from wedding planning, photography, disc-jockey services and floral arrangements to cakes, venues and limos.

– Decide “whether or not to hire, terminate or discipline an individual whose conduct or religious beliefs are inconsistent” with their beliefs or moral convictions.

– Decide to whom they will sell or rent housing they control based on their religious beliefs or moral convictions.

In addition, for others protected under the law:

– Adoptive or foster parents can raise a child they’ve been granted custody of by the state with the same beliefs and convictions of those protected by the law.

– Medical and therapy professionals can decline “treatments, counseling, or surgeries related to sex reassignment or gender identity transitioning” and “psychological, counseling, or fertility services” to people whose lifestyles violate their religious beliefs.

– People can create “sex-specific standards or policies concerning employee or student dress or grooming, or concerning access to restrooms, spas, baths, showers, dressing rooms, locker rooms or other intimate facilities or settings.”

– State employees and those acting on behalf of the state may recuse themselves from authorizing or licensing legal marriages, although they may not stand in the way of others doing so.

“Mississippians from all walks of life believe that the government shouldn’t punish someone because of their views on marriage. The people of Mississippi, from every demographic, support this commonsense ‘live and let live’ bill, which simply affirms the freedom of all people to peacefully live and work according to their deeply held beliefs without threat of punishment from their own government,” stated Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Kellie Fiedorek.

“We commend the governor for signing into law protections for schools, churches, businesses, and public employees so that they won’t face government discrimination. After all, you’re not free if your beliefs are confined to your mind. What makes America unique is our freedom to peacefully live out those beliefs, and the Constitution protects that freedom.”

“It gives protection to those in the state who cannot in a good conscience provide services for a same-sex marriage,” Sen. Jennifer Branning said last Wednesday. “I don’t think this bill is discriminatory. It takes no rights away.”

Gov. Bryant said in a statement on Twitter Tuesday that he believed the bill “merely reinforces the rights which currently exist to the exercise of religious freedom as stated in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

“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,” he wrote.

“This is the most hateful bill I have seen in my career in the legislature,” Rep. Stephen Holland said last week. “You ought to be ashamed of yourself. You are doing nothing but discrimination.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Mississippi said in a statement that Tuesday was “a sad day for the state” and for “the thousands of Mississippians who can now be turned away from businesses, refused marriage licensed, or denied housing, essential services and needed care based on who they are.”

The group added, “Far from protecting anyone from ‘government discrimination’ as the bill claims, it is an attack on the citizens of our state, and it will serve as the Magnolia State’s badge of shame.”

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About the Author

- Roxanne "Butter" Bracco began with the Dispatch as Pittsburgh Correspondent, but will be providing reports and insights from Washington DC, Maryland and the surrounding region. Contact Roxie aka "Butter" at [email protected] ATTN: Roxie or Butter Bracco


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