Friday, April 01, 2016

Mississippi's Sweeping Religious Freedom Bill Heads To Governor's Desk


Caitlin MacNeal
APRIL 01, 2016

The Mississippi House on Friday passed a religious freedom bill that would allow businesses and public employees to deny services to people based on the belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman, sending the legislation to Gov. Phil Bryant (R).

The bill, passed by the state Senate earlier this week, also allows businesses to deny services based on the belief that "sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage" and that the belief that gender is determined at birth.

Additionally, the bill would allow religious groups to fire someone whose "conduct or religious beliefs are inconsistent with those of the religious organization," and let those organizations block adoptions due to religious beliefs.

The legislation allows clerks to refuse to give marriage licenses to same-sex couples, too.

Ben Needham, the director of Project One America, a LGBT advocacy project in the South run by the Human Rights Campaign, told Buzzfeed News that the Mississippi legislation is "probably the worst religious freedom bill to date."

State Rep. Randy Boyd (R), one of the bill's sponsors, has said that the legislation was aimed at protecting Christians from discrimination.

"This bill doesn't stop anyone from getting what they want from the state. I have a problem with the discrimination of Christian belief," he said, as quoted by CNN. "I don't uphold discrimination but I believe the Christian belief is more discriminated against than other things. ... I'm trying to get a happy medium here where people get their rights and other people aren't pressured into doing anything they don't believe in against their religious beliefs."

Bryant has not indicated whether he will sign the bill, but told a CNN affiliate in Mississippi that the legislation "gives some people—as I appreciate it—the right to be able to say, that's against my religious beliefs and I don't need to carry out that particular task."

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