Mississippi joins North Carolina today as a sweeping anti-gay “religious freedom bill” passed the state legislature and now it’s headed to the Governor’s office. Some commentators are calling the Mississippi religious freedom bill the “worst in the nation” for the harsh strictures it places on LGBTQ individuals living in the state.
The Mississippi religious freedom bill was enacted by a Republican-dominated state house and state senate in an effort by conservative lawmakers to remedy what they claim is a fundamental abuse of the U.S. constitution: the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage. In speeches made by Mississippi state senators, the religious freedom bill was described as a way around the Supreme Court’s ruling and a way for religious individuals in Mississippi to protect their religious liberty by refusing to service gay couples, reports CNN.
“It gives protection to those in the state who cannot in good conscience provide services for a same-sex marriage,” said Mississippi State Senator Jennifer Branning in an address to the Mississippi legislature last night.
Branning has been a vocal supporter of the religious freedom bill, and she claims the bill is designed only to allow religious individuals to protect their right to free expression of their religion. Branning claims the religious freedom bill does not curtail the rights of gay couples, rather it solidifies the rights of every individual to pursue their faith and deny service to gay couples if doing so would be contrary to their chosen religious faith.
“I don’t think this bill is discriminatory, it takes no rights away from anyone,” Branning said during her address, speaking to the concerns that Mississippi state democrats have voiced over the sweeping anti-LGBTQ law, reports USA Today.
Mississippi state democrats have opposed the religious freedom bill since the beginning and voiced their opinions during last night’s session of the Mississippi State Senate. State Democrats claim the bill is harmful, discriminatory, and unconstitutional, charges leveled at similar religious freedom bills passed in other states, like North Carolina and Georgia. However, the Georgia governor vetoed the bill in that state, as the Inquisitr reported previously.
“This is probably the worst religious freedom bill to date,” says Ben Needham, the director of an LGBT advocacy project called Project One America.
Mississippi’s religious freedom bill differs from those passed or vetoed in other states in that it protects individuals, religious organizations, and businesses from being charged in criminal or civil court for denying service to transgender individuals, gay individuals, or gay couples as long as their denial of service is based on “sincerely held religious beliefs.”
“The bill doesn’t stop anyone from getting what they want from the state, I have a problem with the discrimination of Christian belief,” said Mississippi Representative Randy Boyd, who supports the sweeping religious freedom bill.
The Mississippi religious freedom bill covers familiar territory, but it goes a little further than other states. The bill also allows individuals to deny healthcare, medical services, foster care, adoption services, and government funding if providing these services to gay or transgender individuals would conflict with their religious beliefs. The sweeping anti-gay religious freedom bill was heavily criticized for its discriminatory language by Mississippi Democrats.
“I have experienced discrimination as many African Americans have, can’t you see how this legislation might be seen as discriminatory?” said State Senator John Horhn during the Senate session last night.
The sweeping Mississippi religious freedom bill was amended just before its passage, including a passage which provides legal immunity to any individual who denies the aforementioned services to someone else due to their sexual orientation or lifestyle choices if those choices conflict with their religious beliefs.
“It is very broad, and very dangerous. It basically sanctions religious discrimination,” said Bill Needham, speaking with CNN about the Mississippi religious freedom bill.
[Photo by Andrea Morales/Getty Images]