HRC Mississippi Commends Fair-Minded Mississippi Lawmakers for Effort to Roll Back H.B. 1523

by Ianthe Metzger

JACKSON, MS -- Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Mississippi praised efforts by Rep. Jay Hughes and members of the Mississippi House of Representatives to overturn the H.B. 1523 -- a discriminatory bill targeting LGBT people that Governor Phil Bryant signed into law on April 5. At a press conference this morning, Rep. Hughes announced that he is seeking to suspend regular House rules in order to introduce the “Mississippi Economic and Tourism Recovery Act,” which would repeal the terrible law.

“We thank Rep. Hughes and his fair-minded colleagues who continue to fight for the rights and dignity of LGBT Mississippians,” said HRC Mississippi State Director Rob Hill. “The discriminatory H.B. 1523 has no place in our state, and, along with the many Mississippians who support full equality for their fellow citizens, we remain committed to doing everything possible to remove this stain from our state’s legacy.”

Two-thirds of House members must vote in favor of suspending the rules to allow a vote on the proposed legislation to repeal H.B. 1523.

H.B. 1523, dubbed the “Religious Liberty Accommodations Act,” allows almost any individual or organization to use religion as a justification to discriminate against LGBT Mississippians in some of the most important aspects of their lives, including at work, at school, and in their communities.

Last week, HRC announced that executives from major corporations including The Coca-Cola Company, Northrop Grumman, and Intel signed onto an open letter addressed to Gov. Bryant, as well as Mississippi Lt. Governor Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip A. Gunn, urging them to repeal H.B.1523. Some of the state’s largest employers, including Nissan Group of North America, Tyson Food Inc, MGM Resorts International, and Toyota, also publicly voiced their opposition to the appalling legislation -- joining national corporations such as AT&T, IBM, and MassMutual. Gov. Bryant also ignored the call of the Mississippi Manufacturers Association (MMA) to veto the discriminatory measure. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has joined an effort to get more CEOs to speak publicly against the law, and top executives from Microsoft and IBM have asserted that the law is bad for business.

Additionally, rocker Bryan Adams cancelled a concert scheduled for later this week in Biloxi, MS, and nearly 100 prominent writers from the state, including John Grisham and Kathryn Stockett, signed a letter protesting the discriminatory law. ABC’s “Good Morning America” co-anchor Robin Roberts, who is featured as the welcoming face of the Hospitality State’s official tourism guide, also decried the legislation saying, “hurts my soul to think of anyone not feeling welcome.”

Under this new law, religion could be used by almost any individual or organization to justify discrimination against LGBT 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 LGBT families including the child’s own family member; and refuse to sell or rent a for-profit home to an LGBT 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 LGBT 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 LGBT people.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. HRC envisions a world where LGBT people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.


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