Mississippi Is on Course to Steal North Carolina’s Anti-LGBT Crown

Mississippi lawmakers have backed a so-called “religious protection” bill that would, among other things, specifically allow religious people to deny health care treatment and services to LGBT people.

The legislation, known as H.B. 1523 or the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” has been called the most aggressive anti-LGBT bill of its kind — even beyond most of the provisions in the North Carolina bill that have drawn wide-scale protests and big business boycotts.

The Mississippi legislation supposedly “protects” the religious in the face of evolving societal ideas about marriage. In reality, it goes far beyond that.

The legislation would mean the state government could not retaliate against a person on grounds of their “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions” when they act on a belief that “marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman.”

Therefore, county clerks like Kentucky’s Kim Davis could not be penalized for refusing to issue same-gender marriage licenses. Similarly, businesses, like florists and cake shops, could turn away LGBT people.

The bill does contain a clause that says, in terms of marriage licensing, reasonable accommodations should be made to hand over the responsibility to someone who will issue a marriage license. However, the bill fails to provide for a circumstance in which all county clerks in that region refuse on religious grounds.

Unfortunately, it’s not a far-fetched scenario. It has taken place in at least one county of one state since the marriage equality ruling last year. And it’s likely to occur again, as this kind of legislation only emboldens religious objections.

If the bill stopped there, it would largely be a restatement of Kentucky’s existing religious freedom bill. However, the new legislation’s scope is far broader. Under those same “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions” is a clause that sex should be reserved for marriage. That attacks both single parents and cohabiting couples.

Furthermore, the bill protects the following belief:

Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.

This statement shields transphobia and essentially denies that trans people even exist. Trans individuals would be forced into bathrooms and changing rooms according to their defined-at-birth sex. This is wholly anti-science and profoundly inhumane. But the legislation isn’t done yet.

When the bill lists those who can use the protections, it includes adoption agencies and services – when Mississippi just lost a federal court battle over a same-gender parent ban on adoption, no less — as well as medical treatments:

The state government shall not take any discriminatory action against a person wholly or partially on the basis that the person declines to participate in the provision of treatments, counseling, or surgeries related to sex reassignment or gender identity transitioning or declines to participate in the provision of psychological, counseling, or fertility services based upon a sincerely held religious belief…

This is the only bill in recent years to go so far as to deny gender affirmation and other health care. Lawmakers supporting this bill have hit back, emphasizing that the legislation specifically states the following:

[This clause] shall not be construed to allow any person to deny visitation, recognition of a designated representative for health care decision-making, or emergency medical treatment necessary to cure an illness or injury as required by law.

Yet, LGBT advocates point out that while federal law protects visitation and decision-making rights for LGBT couples, there are no such state protections in Mississippi state law. This sloppy one line about not infringing those rights fails to clarify whether Mississippi intends to follow those rules.

Given that the state has decided to transgress several other areas of the U.S. Constitution in order to deny LGBT people equal status under the law, it’s a valid question.

Furthermore, the state cannot act to protect people from LGBT conversion therapy — a practice that has pushed young people and adults to suicide. We are also forced to ask if this bill could be applied to deny HIV medication like PrEP based on the notion that prescribing or facilitating its use in some way condones same-gender sexual relationships. In broader terms, this legislation might also be used to deny women contraceptive care.

The state House passed this legislation by an 80-39 vote in February, while the Senate passed the bill in a 32-17 vote late on Wednesday, March 30 — with a few amendments that needed House approval.

The legislation is now on its way to Gov. Phil Bryant’s desk. He is a known opponent of LGBT rights and signed what is widely considered the first true anti-LGBT Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2014.

The new legislation, which adds so many discriminatory provisions to the state’s RFRA, appears broadly unconstitutional in several ways. LGBT rights advocates have indicated they will take the state to court if this legislation gets signed into law.

Bryant — while by no means a friend to the LGBT community — could reasonably refuse the bill on the grounds that the state’s RFRA is strong enough already. And to avoid a backlash similar to what has occurred in North Carolina.

Governor Bryant has so far remained quiet about the bill, but if he has any shred of decency, he must reject this discriminatory legislation.

Photo Credit: Tony Webster/Flickr

77 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Karen H.
Karen H1 years ago

For those who think HB2 protects women, sexual predators use many disguises, the most common might be "coach" or "friend" or "teacher" or "neighbor" or even "family member". If law enforcement is so intent on protecting women from sexual assault, why are so many rape kits unprocessed? Why aren't our politicians passing laws that demand the kits be processed within a reasonable amount of time after they're collected? If politicians are so concerned, why aren't they doing something about the wrist-slaps and short jail sentences for convicted rapists? And what about people who don’t "look" like their gender? A short-haired, flat-chested girl wearing jeans was verbally assaulted by someone who thought she was in the "wrong bathroom". Does this mean HB2 and bills like it want women to go back to wearing dresses? This is not protecting women.

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Karen H.
Karen H1 years ago

This travel advisory was issued tin the UK for citizens coming to the U.S.: "The US is an extremely diverse society and attitudes towards LGBT people differ hugely across the country. LGBT travelers may be affected by legislation passed recently in the states of North Carolina and Mississippi. Before travelling please read our general travel advice for the LGBT community." The advice can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/lesbian-gay-bisexual-and-transgender-foreign-travel-advice. This is what you would normally expect to see if you were traveling to a third world country. Has America fallen so low?

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Regus Slantei
Regus Slantei1 years ago

Darryll G. --

If you think criticizing what someone does is somehow not criticizing the person, then you are a purposeful moron. And I do NOT feel sorry for you.

The issues of "forgiveness" and "feeling sorry" for your lame behavior is between you and your god to sort out. But the Jesus of the bible will be hard-pressed to sort out your special brand of purposeful ignorance, especially since you try to propagate it in his name.

Cletus

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Danuta Watola
Danuta W1 years ago

thank you for the good article

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Darryll Green
Darryll Green1 years ago

PAM, remember Jesus, the one who told everybody he healed to go AND SIN NO MORE, it's one thing when it's against someone, all my remarks are against what they do, BIG DIFFERENCE, if you don't know what it is, I feel sorry for you

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Darryll Green
Darryll Green1 years ago

while your all so busy praising Bryan adams for his stance, think about this - http://www.albawaba.com/entertainment/please-forgive-me-bryan-adams-says-he-will-return-egypt-despite-guitar-vandalism-81618 and remember Egypt just killed a gay person and you were all screaming about that

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ERIKA SOMLAI
ERIKA S1 years ago

noted

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ERIKA SOMLAI
ERIKA S1 years ago

noted

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pam w.
pam w1 years ago

Exactly, Marie....Christian Sharia law....no better than that of Islamic nations.

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