Mississippi Anti-LGBT ‘Religious Freedom’ Bill Just A License To Discriminate And Harass?

The Mississippi Senate just voted to pass an anti-LGBT “religious freedom” bill that some critics are calling “the worst and most sweeping anti-LGBT legislation in the United States.” The Mississippi vote wasn’t close — it was 31-17, and it is designed specifically to allow discrimination against the LGBT community in the state, so long as the person responsible for the discrimination cites their “sincerely held religious beliefs,” reports Patheos.

The Mississipi anti-LGBT religious freedom bill, also known as House Bill 1523, also known as the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” would allow virtually everyone in the state to use their religious beliefs as a legal justification for discrimination. This includes state employees, individuals, corporations, nonprofit organizations, and healthcare providers. While the Mississippi measure is definitely targeted at the LGBT community, it actually opens the door to discrimination against virtually anyone who behaves in a manner that doesn’t conform with another person’s “sincerely held religious beliefs.” This includes same-sex or transgender couples, divorcees, single parents, anyone who has sex out of wedlock, or even women who wear pants, if such behavior contradicts “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Protesting LGBT Rights
[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]
While legislators in support of the Mississippi anti-LGBT religious freedom bill say that the legislation was designed to protect the religious liberties of individuals, corporations, and religious groups, critics say that it is nothing more than a license to discriminate and harass. It is also a direct response to the same-sex marriage issue in the United States, an issue decided unequivocally by the U.S. Supreme Court last June, and allows those who decide to discriminate against same-sex couples, transgender individuals, or really anyone to do so with impunity, so long as they claim that their discrimination and/or harassment are based upon “sincerely held” religious beliefs.

In a nutshell, anyone who wants to discriminate or harass someone who doesn’t abide by the tenants of their personal faith will now be able to do so in the State of Mississippi. And they will be able to do so free of the fear of legal consequences or government retribution.

The Mississippi anti-LGBT religious freedom bill is designed to protect anyone who chooses to deny goods, services, employment, housing, or even medical treatment to members of the LGBT community so long as those individuals (or corporations) cite their religious beliefs as a basis for their discrimination. The bill is extensive, and extends to protecting those who refuse to provide marriage services (including marriage licenses), foster care, adoption, and/or counseling services to the LGBT community. It allows government employees in Mississippi to discriminate with impunity and deny services and benefits to the LGBT community (or potentially atheists, divorcees, people of different faiths, etc.), even when those services and benefits are funded by taxpayers.

LGBT Support Protest
[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]
The director of Project One America, a southern LGBT advocacy and support group, calls the new Mississippi anti-LGBT religious freedom bill “probably the worst religious freedom bill to date” in the U.S.

“The legislation is expressly designed to make it possible for Christian extremists to demean and disadvantage members of the LGBT population under the guise of religious freedom. The legislation is yet another example of the anti-gay hatred and bigotry so often expressed by conservative Christians.”

While the Mississippi anti-LGBT religious freedom bill has been agreed upon by the Mississippi Senate, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant hasn’t yet confirmed (nor denied) whether or not the legislation will be signed into law by his hand. However, the Mississippi governor has indicated in the past that he would support a bill or legislation like it.

Legal experts following the Mississippi anti-LGBT bill reportedly believe that despite hiding behind the guise of “religious freedom,” the discriminator nature of the new law that effectively legalizes discrimination and harassment against the LGBT community would most likely result in HB 1523 being struck down by the courts in the future.

Ultimately, while shocking and hateful, many believe that the new Mississippi anti-LGBT religious freedom bill is nothing but another “expensive exercise in futility,” one perpetuated by people who refuse to treat the LGBT community with anything other than contempt and disdain.

[Image Courtesy Of Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]

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