Today, HRC released the following statement after the State Senate followed in the House’s footsteps to approve H.B. 1523 by a 31 to 17 vote. This comes despite the tremendous backlash that states like Georgia and North Carolina have faced for their legislatures voting in favor of bills that would put the LGBT community at risk of discrimination. H.B. 1523 returns to the House for a procedural vote on a new amendment, and will then head to the desk of Governor Bryant, who will either sign or veto the measure.
“Following the shameful actions of Lt. Governor Reeves and the Mississippi Senate, Governor Bryant is left with a very clear choice on how to lead his state forward when H.B. 1523 comes to his desk,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Will he follow the example of Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard, who, understood that discrimination in any form is unacceptable? Or will he align himself with North Carolina’s Governor McCrory, who, in sanctioning discrimination, has harmed both his constituents and the economy of North Carolina?”
Griffin continued, “We urge Gov. Bryant to do the right thing - reject discrimination, and veto this harmful measure when it reaches his desk.”
Dubbed the “Religious Liberty Accommodations Act,” H.B. 1523 would allow individuals, religious organizations and private associations to use religion to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Mississippians in some of the most important aspect of their lives, including at work, at schools, in their family life and more.
Under Mississippi’s H.B. 1523, religion could be used by most any individual or organization to justify discrimination against LGBT people, single mothers, unwed couples and others. Tax-payer funded faith-based organizations could: refuse to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples for provision of critical services including emergency shelter; deny children in need of loving homes placement with LGBT families including the child’s own family member; and refuse to sell or rent a for-profit home to an LGBT person -- even if the organization receives government funding. As introduced, H.B. 1523 would also give foster families the freedom to subject an LGBTQ child to the dangerous practice of “conversion therapy,” and shame a pregnant unwed girl, without fear of government intervention or license suspension. It would even allow individuals to refuse to carry out the terms of a state contract for the provision of counseling services to all eligible individuals, including veterans, based on the counselor's beliefs about LGBT people or single mothers.
Furthermore, schools, employers and service providers could implement sex-specific dress and grooming standards, as well as refuse transgender people access to the appropriate sex-segregated facilities, consistent with their gender identity -- all in conflict with the United States Department of Justice’s enforcement of federal law. H.B. 1523 even legalizes Kim Davis-style discrimination by allowing government employees to abdicate their duties and refuse to license or solemnize marriages for LGBT people.
Earlier this week, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal announced his decision to veto H.B.757 -- a deeply discriminatory religious refusal bill that sailed through the State Legislature. The legislation, which sparked a massive backlash of opposition from a broad array of civil rights groups, leaders in Hollywood, and corporate America, could have weakened local non-discrimination protections, allowed businesses to discriminate by denying service to LGBT people, and explicitly empowered discrimination by religious organizations. North Carolina is currently facing intense criticism for the passage of HB 2, a horrific anti-LGBT law that eliminates existing municipal non-discrimination protections for LGBT people and prevents such protections from being passed by cities in the future. The law, which was passed in a one-day hurried special session, is also the first of its kind to force transgender students in public schools to use restrooms and other facilities inconsistent with their gender identity -- a provision that puts 4.5 billion dollars in federal funding under Title IX at risk. Yesterday, over 90 leading CEOs and business leaders signed a letter calling for the repeal of H.B. 2.
H.B.1523 came to the Mississippi Senate today after passing the House of Representatives by an 80-39 vote last month. The attacks on fairness and equality in Mississippi are part of an onslaught of anti-LGBT bills being pushed this year by anti-equality activists across the country. HRC is currently tracking nearly 200 anti-LGBT bills in 34 states. As of today, at least half of these bills have been beaten back around the country. For more information, visit: www.hrc.org/2016legislature.