Mississippi law allows discrimination against same-sex couples and others.
Mississippi’s Republican governor is fighting to preserve a state law allowing merchants and government employees to deny services to same-sex couples and others based on sincerely held religious beliefs.
Governor Phil Bryant is asking a federal appeals court to uphold a state law letting merchants and government employees cite religious beliefs to deny services to same-sex couples.
CBS reports U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves previously blocked the “religious objections” or “religious freedom” law, ruling that it unconstitutionally establishes preferred beliefs and creates unequal treatment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
In blocking the law last July, Judge Reeves wrote that the law was unconstitutional because “the state has put its thumb on the scale to favor some religious beliefs over others,” and declared it “was the state’s attempt to put LGBT citizens back in their place” after the Supreme Court’s marriage ruling.
As a result of that ruling, Governor Bryant is now taking the unusual move of using private attorneys to appeal, because the state’s Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood declined to appeal the judge’s ruling.
Earlier this year Bryant signed the sweeping “religious freedom” bill into law. The draconian law allows sincerely held religious beliefs to be used as a justification for discrimination against same sex couples, single mothers, divorcees, and anyone who has had sex outside of marriage.
The law, championed and signed by Bryant, sought to protect three beliefs: Marriage is only between a man and a woman; sex should only take place in such a marriage; and a person’s gender is determined at birth and cannot be altered.
The law promises that the state government will not punish people who refuse to provide services to people because of a religious opposition to same-sex marriage, extramarital sex or transgender people.
The “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act” (House Bill 1523) allows state employees, corporations, individuals, healthcare providers, and nonprofit organizations to use religion as a justification to discriminate against nearly everyone—same sex couples, single mothers, divorcees, and anyone who has had sex outside of marriage.
Under the law, women could be fired for wearing pants, or having premarital sex.
Ben Needham, director of southern LGBT advocacy group Project One America, described the legislation as “probably the worst religious freedom bill to date” to be considered in the United States.
In reality, the legislation is expressly designed to make it possible for Christian extremists to demean and disadvantage members of the LGBT population and others 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.
Bottom line: Mississippi’s “religious freedom” law has nothing to do with religious freedom. Instead, the law endorses religious based bigotry and hatred, and is yet another reminder why fair and decent people should never vote Republican.