Post submitted by Ianthe Metzger, former HRC Deputy Press Secretary

Today, hundreds of equality advocates joined HRC, NAACP, ACLU of Mississippi, Southern Policy Law Center, Planned Parenthood and other rights organizations and leaders demanding repeal of the state’s discriminatory H.B. 1523 during a rally on the steps of the State Capitol.

The march to the Governor’s Mansion culminated in a rally, where advocates, including HRC President Chad Griffin and former NAACP President Ben Jealous joined the broad chorus of fair-minded voters, national and local businesses, entertainers and sports figures calling on Governor Phil  Bryant, Lt. Governor Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn to repeal of the discriminatory measure before it goes into effect on July 1.

“There is still time for Governor Bryant to do the right thing and repeal H.B. 1523,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “If this discriminatory law is allowed to stand, LGBTQ Mississippians in just two months will become second-class citizens in the place they call home, and the state’s economy and reputation will continue to suffer. This fight is far from over, and we remain committed to doing everything possible to remove this terrible law from books in the great state of Mississippi.”

HRC continues to call on state leaders to meet with LGBTQ Mississippians who are targeted by this hateful legislation, which allows almost any individual or organization to use broad justifications to discriminate against LGBTQ Mississippians at work, at school and in their communities. So far, they have all rejected HRC’s requests and refused meetings.

Gov. Bryant and state lawmakers are under increasingly intense pressure to repeal H.B. 1523.  More than 75 leading CEOs and business leaders are urging the Governor Bryant to repeal the deeply discriminatory law that’s bad for business and bad for Mississippi. Mayors and governors across the country are banning travel to the state, while musicians and entertainers are cancelling movie shoots, concerts and shows.  Additionally, the NCAA announced this week that it won’t schedule events - including the Final Four - in cities that don’t have fully-inclusive non-discrimination laws. The United Kingdom’s Foreign Office has even warned  its LGBTQ citizens of the risks of traveling to Mississippi.

Under this new law, almost any individual or organization could justify discrimination against LGBTQ people, single mothers, unwed couples, and others. Tax-payer 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 LGBTQ families including the child’s own family member; and refuse to sell or rent a for-profit home to an LGBTQ person -- even if the organization receives government funding. It would also give foster families the freedom to subject an LGBTQ child to the dangerous practice of “conversion therapy,” and subject a pregnant unwed girl to abuse, 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 LGBTQ people or single mothers.

Furthermore, schools, employers, and service providers could refuse transgender people access to appropriate sex-segregated facilities consistent with their gender identity -- all in direct conflict with the U.S. Department of Justice’s enforcement of federal law. HB 1523 even legalizes Kim Davis-style discrimination by allowing government employees to abdicate their duties and refuse to license or solemnize marriages for LGBTQ people.

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