Post submitted by Ianthe Metzger, former HRC Deputy Press Secretary
This morning, advocates from HRC and ACLU of Mississippi gathered outside the Mississippi State Capitol to highlight the discriminatory effects of H.B.1523, urging House Speaker Philip A. Gunn to shelve the bill before this afternoon’s final vote. The outrageous legislation would allow individuals, religious organizations and private associations to use religion to discriminate against LGBT Mississippians in some of the most important aspects of their lives, including at work, at schools, in their family life and more.
Following the House’s expected vote this afternoon, advocates for HRC, the ACLU of Mississippi, Planned Parenthood Southeast, the Southern Poverty Law Center and more, will hold a rally with supporters across the state outside the governor's mansion at 5:30pm CT, to call on Governor Bryant to veto the hateful legislation.
“H.B. 1523 is a vicious, unacceptable attack on fairness, equality and the rights of LGBT people,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Fair-minded Mississippians and the business community roundly condemn this legislation, and implore Governor Bryant and legislative leaders to stand on the right side of history. and follow the example of Georgia Governor Nathan and South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard, who vetoed similar anti-LGBT legislation. The people of Mississippi deserve better, and we remain committed to fighting until every Mississippian can live openly and authentically at home, at work and in their community.”
Some of the state’s largest employers -- including Nissan Group of North America, Tyson Food Inc., MGM Resorts International, Toyota, and the Mississippi Economic Council -- have come out against the discriminatory bill, joining national companies such as AT&T, IBM, Levi Strauss & Co, MassMutual. General Electric, and Hyatt Hotel Corporations. Yesterday, artists Lance Bass and Mary Elizabeth Ellis released a video calling on their fellow Mississippians to take action against H.B. 1523, and last week, the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi released a strongly worded statement condemning the discriminatory legislation. It reads in part, “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 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. Additionally, taxpayer-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 home to an LGBT person -- even if the organization receives government funding.
As introduced, H.B. 1523 would also allow foster families to subject an LGBTQ child to the dangerous and debunked practice of “conversion therapy,” and to shame an unmarried pregnant girl without fear of government intervention or foster care license suspension. It would even allow state-compensated counselors to refuse to provide services to all eligible individuals, including veterans, based on the counselor's beliefs about LGBT people or single mothers.
Additionally, schools, employers and service providers could implement sex-specific dress and grooming standards, as well as refuse transgender people access to sex-segregated facilities that are 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, allowing government employees to abdicate their duties and refuse to license or solemnize marriages for LGBT people.
The Mississippi Senate voted 31-17 last week to advance H.B.1523, but the bill was sent back to the House for a procedural vote on a new amendment. 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.
Full list of business statements against H.B. 1523:
AT&T supports our freedom of speech and religion just as vigorously as we oppose discrimination. Legislation that permits discrimination against any of our employees or customers conflicts with our core values. Our position on discrimination is simple; we oppose it.
IBM is disappointed by the Mississippi legislature’s passage of H.B. 1523, because we believe this legislation will permit discrimination against people based on their marital status, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression.
IBM urges Governor Bryant not to approve H.B. 1523, and will continue to support passage by Congress of the Equality Act, which would provide federal non-discrimination protections to all Americans.
IBM's stance on Mississippi H.B. 1523. pic.twitter.com/LbHUBmO1mL— IBMPolicy (@IBMpolicy) April 1, 2016
Levi Strauss & Co.
We believe that treating all people equally and fairly is good for business, and discrimination has no place anywhere. #NoOnHB1523— Levi Strauss & Co. (@LeviStraussCo) April 1, 2016
Mississippi Economic Council
As the State Chamber of Commerce for a state that has proven its hospitable and business-friendly approach, MEC opposes efforts that would intentionally or unintentionally prevent Mississippi businesses from implementing and enforcing non-discrimination policies or that would limit diversity and inclusion impacting their customers and employees.
MGM Resorts International
MGM Resorts does not support the “Freedom of Conscience” bill. We respect the diversity of our employees, guests and people in our communities. Laws that permit businesses to decline to provide services to individuals because of this diversity result in decreased tourism and hurt the local economy
Nissan Group of North America
Nissan is committed to providing our employees with an inclusive workplace environment that supports diversity. It is Nissan’s policy to prohibit discrimination of any type, and we oppose any legislation that would allow discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals
Toyota does not condone discrimination in any form and believes that inclusive treatment of all people is good for the workplace, marketplace and society as a whole. In our experience, the best ideas come when everyone is equally engaged and valued
Tyson Foods Inc.
While we value religious freedom, we oppose legislation that allows discrimination. Our core values call on us to be respectful of each other and our policies prohibit unlawful harassment and discrimination in the workplace involving race, religion, color, age, national origin, veteran status, disability, genetic information, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or other protected status under federal, state, or local law.