Today, HRC hailed the news that the Mississippi Manufacturers Association (MMA) has joined the growing list of businesses and organizations urging Governor Bryant to veto House Bill 1523 -- a discriminatory bill that would allow individuals, religious organizations, and private associations to use religion as an excuse to discriminate against LGBT Mississippians in some of the most important aspect of their lives, including at work, at schools, in their family life, and more.
Jay C. Moon, President and CEO of the MMA spoke out against the legislation, saying: “It is clear that many of our members find that HB 1523 would violate their corporate policies expressly providing for an inclusive workplace environment that supports diversity. This is not a bill that the MMA supports and we hope that it will not find its way into law.”
At a rally earlier this evening where HRC President Chad Griffin and others spoke, HRC Mississippi, the ACLU of Mississippi, Southern Poverty Law Center, Planned Parenthood Southeast, and advocates from across Mississippi rallied outside the governor’s mansion urging Governor Bryant to veto HB 1523. HRC had earlier requested that the governor meet with LGBT Mississippians, but that call has gone unanswered -- and today advocates were turned away from his office. HRC also requested that House Speaker Philip Gunn meet with the LGBT community prior to this afternoon’s final vote on the discriminatory bill, another request that was denied.
“HB 1523 is bad for Mississippians, bad for businesses and bad for the state's economy. That's why a growing chorus of citizens and companies across this state are calling on Governor Bryant to veto this discriminatory and deplorable bill which would put his own constituents at risk of harassment and discrimination,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. "We urge Governor Bryant to make the right decision and stand on the right side of history by declaring there is no place for discrimination in Mississippi."
Some of the state’s largest employers, including Nissan Group of North America, Tyson Food Inc, MGM Resorts International, and Toyota have already publicly voiced their opposition to the appalling legislation. National corporations such as AT&T, IBM, Levi Strauss & Co, MassMutual, General Electric, and Hyatt Hotel Corporations have also expressed their deep concerns about the discriminatory measure.
Yesterday, artists Lance Bass and Mary Elizabeth Ellis released a video calling on their fellow Mississippians to take action against HB 1523. Just last week, the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi released a strongly worded statement condemning the discriminatory legislation: “The Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi stands as one with our brothers and sisters in the LGBT community and the Human Rights Campaign. We respect their painful journey as they have sought full inclusion in our society. Many of them share a Christian faith that is deep and profound. We should embrace their quest for equality and justice rather than placing obstacles in their pathway.”
Under HB 1523, religion could be used by individuals or organizations 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, HB 1523 would also give foster families the freedom to subject an LGBTQ child to the dangerous practice of “conversion therapy” or 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 refuse transgender people access to appropriate sex-segregated facilities consistent with their gender identity -- all in direct conflict with the U.S. Department of Justice’s enforcement of federal law. HB 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.