HRC Calls for Explicit Civil Rights Protections in Mississippi Religious Freedom Bill

by Charles Joughin

Changes have improved bill, but lawmakers can do more to fulfill promise of non-discrimination

WASHINGTON – Today the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is calling on the Mississippi legislature to further amend the proposed "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" in order to make real their stated desire that the bill not undercut the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. HRC State Legislative Director Sarah Warbelow released the following statement:

“We respect and appreciate the lawmakers who listened to our concerns about the broad nature of the initial bill.  There can and should be a balance between ensuring that religious liberty is protected without granting a blanket license for anti-LGBT discrimination.

“While we believe that existing statutes and case law are sufficient to address the protection of religious freedom, if the legislature moves forward on this bill, they have a simple solution for their actions to match their rhetoric.  To ensure LGBT people are not targeted for discrimination, we call on legislators to adopt language that explicitly preserves civil rights protections in any effort to protect religious freedom.

“We encourage lawmakers in other states considering this type of legislation to heed the concerns of businesses, fair-minded religious leaders and civil rights advocates in order to ensure that no group of people is marked for second-class treatment.”

Jennifer Riley-Collins, Executive Director of the ACLU of MS states,

"The Constitution protects not only the right to believe (or not to believe), but also the right to express and to manifest religious beliefs. We have the absolute right to believe whatever we want about God, faith, and religion, and we have the right to act on our beliefs, unless those actions harm others.  This bill does NOT go far enough to protect individuals or businesses.  It is a broad license to discriminate.”

HRC is working with local partners and lobbyists on the ground in Jackson to address the significant problems with the initial bill.  The organization also activated its members and supporters in Mississippi with an action alert signed by Mississippi native Lance Bass.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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