After differing versions of Mississippi’s so-called "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" passed the House and Senate, yesterday a conference committee reported out a final bill that fails to prohibit discrimination against customers based on business owners' personal religious beliefs. Tonight the final bill passed both houses of the Mississippi legislature and now heads to the desk of Governor Phil Bryant.
While efforts had previously been made to allay concerns about the scope and breadth of the legislation, the version passed tonight is far-reaching and should be vetoed by the governor. Human Rights Campaign (HRC) State Legislative Director Sarah Warbelow issued the following statement:
“While there were many efforts to correct the clearly problematic elements of this legislation, the bill still has the effect of making LGBT people strangers to the law. Before Mississippi has had the opportunity to robustly discuss the lived experiences of LGBT people, this bill would hollow out any non-discrimination protections at the local level or possible future state-wide protections. Just as we’ve seen in other states, this bill is bad for business, bad for the state’s reputation, and most of all, bad for Mississippians. Governor Bryant must veto the measure.”
It is possible that the law could:
- Undermine future state and local non-discrimination laws protecting LGBT individuals.
- Interfere with licensing organizations that have professional regulations protecting LGBT individuals.
- Undermine public university non-discrimination policies that include classes of people who lack federal protections
- Allow pharmacists to refuse to provide HIV and hormone replacement therapy drugs.
- Permit restaurants, inns/hotels to potentially turn away same-sex couples celebrating an anniversary, adoption or pregnancy.
- Permit wedding garment shops, bakeries, photo studios, and reception halls to close their doors to same-sex couples planning their weddings.