Post submitted by Ianthe Metzger, former HRC Deputy Press Secretary
Following a vote today by Mississippi Senate Judiciary A to advance H.B 1523, HRC Mississippi called on the Mississippi Senate to put a stop to the discriminatory anti-LGBT bill. If passed, H.B. 1523 would allow individuals, religious organizations and private associations to use religion to discriminate against LGBT Mississippians, in some of the most important aspect of their lives, including at work, at school, in their family life and more. The bill passed out of committee by a voice vote.
“This is an incredibly disappointing day in the Mississippi Senate,” said HRC Mississippi State Director and former United Methodist pastor Rob Hill. “By advancing this vile proposal, the Senate is putting Mississippians from all walks of life at risk of discrimination, and sending the disturbing message that it’s okay to treat people differently because of who they are. We emphatically urge the Senate to put a stop to this irresponsible measure.”
Under H.B. 1523, religion could be used by most any individual or organization to justify discrimination against LGBT people, single mothers, and unmarried couples, among others. Faith-based organizations could refuse to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples; deny children in need of loving homes placement with LGBT families; and refuse to sell or rent a for-profit home to an LGBT person -- even if the organization receives government funding. As introduced, H.B. 1523 would also give foster families the freedom to expose an LGBT child to the dangerous, abusive practice of “conversion therapy,” or to humiliate a pregnant unwed teen, 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 implement sex-specific dress and grooming standards, as well as refuse transgender people access to the appropriate sex-segregated facilities, that are consistent with their gender identity. H.B. 1523 even legalizes Kim Davis-like discrimination by allowing government employees to abdicate their duties and refuse to license or solemnize marriages for LGBT people.
The measure comes to the Senate after passing the House by 80-39 vote last month. 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 32 states. For more information, visit: www.hrc.org/2016legislature.
HRC’s Project One America is an initiative geared towards advancing social, institutional and legal equality in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas. HRC Mississippi is working to advance equality for LGBT Mississippians who have no state-level protections in housing, workplaces, or public accommodations. Through HRC Mississippi, we are working toward a future of fairness every day—changing hearts, minds and laws toward achieving full equality.