Today Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed a bill into law that Mississippi claims protects “sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions of individuals, organizations and private associations from discriminatory action by state government.” Both gay rights groups and Mississippi’s businesses are calling the legislation “discriminatory.”
Section 2 states:
The sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions protected by this act are the belief or conviction that:
- Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman;
- Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage; and
- Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.
The law goes on to define all actions Mississippi individuals, private companies, and religious organizations can take (with one of the above three “beliefs or convictions” as the reason) while being protected from punishment and/or retaliation from the Mississippi government.
The most obvious concerns with the new law are for members of the LGBT community. As noted by NPR, the law could impact LGBT Mississippians’ rights to get married, raise children, and receive medical and psychological services. While this law doesn’t include the right for private companies or individuals to fire LGBT employees, Mississippi is still one of 28 states whose employment discrimination statutes do not include protections on the basis of sexual orientation.
While perhaps less blatantly discriminatory, implications for unmarried couples and single mothers are also alarming with the inclusion of an opposition to extramarital sex as a protected “belief or conviction.”
Unfortunately, Mississippi is hardly the first state in the country to make headlines with its “religious freedom” legislation. Just last month, a similar bill made it through the Georgia Congress and onto Governor Nathan Deal’s desk. Gov. Deal vetoed the bill after the NFL insinuated that Atlanta may not be able to host the Super Bowl should the bill become law. Some of the biggest names in corporate America also said they would take their business elsewhere if Gov. Deal signed the bill, including Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Twitter, Google, Disney, and Apple.
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