Mississippi bill would let businesses rebuff LGBT people

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The Mississippi Senate has passed a bill that gives businesses the right to deny service to members of the LGBT community based on religious or moral beliefs without facing retribution from the state.

The Religious Liberty Accommodation Act passed Wednesday (March 30) and now heads back to conference in the House, moving on a tailwind of national criticism from major corporations and human rights groups and praise from conservative Christians.

The Human Rights Campaign called the acts of Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and the Mississippi Senate “shameful” and called on Gov. Phil Bryant to veto the bill.

HRC president Chad Griffin called on Bryant to emulate “Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard, who understood that discrimination in any form is unacceptable. Or will he align himself with North Carolina’s Governor McCrory, who, in sanctioning discrimination, has harmed both his constituents and the economy of North Carolina?”


RELATED STORY: Reactionary Christianity wins in North Carolina, loses in Georgia


The Civil and Human Rights Coalition compared the bill to Jim Crow. If Bryant does not veto they bill, they said, Mississippi will be set back to the time under former Mississippi Gov. Ross Barnett, who once called God “the original segregationist.”

Thursday afternoon, Nissan North America, a major Mississippi employer, released a statement on the bill saying the company policy prohibits “discrimination of any type, and we oppose any legislation that would allow discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.”

Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz described the bill, HB1523, as “horrific.”

The ACLU’s Mississippi executive director, Jennifer Riley-Collins, said in an emailed statement, “Freedom of religion is one of our most fundamental rights as Americans, but that freedom does not give any of us the right to harm or mistreat others.”

However, Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, a national Christian organization based in Tupelo, Miss., applauded the House for a bill he said  protects Christians from discrimination and is not legal discrimination against the LGBT community.

“If you feel like homosexuality is a sin then, if you’re forced as a business to participate in that sin, that’s a violation of your religious freedom,” Wildmon said. “The other side should show love and compassion to the Christians by not forcing them to do something against their religion. These people are out to punish the Christians who don’t want to participate.”


RELATED STORY: Americans see religious liberty sliding while intolerance (and whining) rise


Referencing providing a service to a same-sex couple who wants to get married, Wildmon said, “The owner doesn’t go, ‘Well, are you gay? Then you can’t buy a cake.’ That’s insane.”

He added, however, that the government should not be able to force a business to provide a service that is against their religious beliefs.

“They shouldn’t be forced by the government to do that,” he said. “That’s not unloving or unkind. That’s somebody who has a conviction about that and they don’t want to participate in it. Just like if somebody doesn’t want to drive an alcoholic to a bar … I don’t want to participate in that. He can go on his own if wants to. They can get married if they want to.”

When asked if he felt denying service to members of the LGBT community was reminiscent of Jim Crow, Wildmon said: “I don’t see somebody’s skin color being compared to somebody’s sexual behavior. It’s a behavior. People have to act on it. They might say that they were born that way or can’t help it but that’s different than somebody’s skin color.

“A person being gay or lesbian is by definition a sexual behavior. Being black or Hispanic or white, you’re born with that.”

The National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce said,  “It’s morally unacceptable that hardworking, tax-paying LGBT Mississippians can continue to be fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes, or denied service in restaurants and shops simply for being who they are, now with the full support of their elected representatives.”

Some Christians see the bill very differently than Wildmon. Chris Donald, a United Methodist pastor and chaplain at Millsaps College, helped author a letter to The Clarion-Ledger, signed by 10 ministers from across the state,  that objects to the bill as “concerned citizens and as followers of Jesus Christ.”

It also concludes that the “liberty” bill would backfire by allowing the state “to preference one religious belief over another, ultimately limiting liberty.”

(Sarah Fowler reported this story for the Clarion-Ledger)

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  • Tim

    The “American Family Association”, which this reporter describes as a “national Christian Organization” is actually a known hate group, as designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The SPLC has tracked hate groups in the United States diligently for the last forty years.

    Younger Christian people like ourselves don’t believe that we’ll get into the kingdom of heaven if we mistreat and segregate gay people. That kind of thinking belongs to older generations.

    Read some of the ugly rhetoric the “American Family Association” has said here in the past:

    GLAAD on the American Family Association
    http://www.glaad.org/cap/bryan-fischer

    Southern Poverty Law Center on the AFA:
    https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/american-family-association

  • G Key

    “Forced as a business to participate”? You’re not even invited, Mr. Wildmon. All you’re doing is selling goods and services to your equals, who are your public customers — not your private business.

    “Violation of religious freedom”? Whose? They don’t even go to your church.

    The only religious connection I see here is Revelation 13:17 (NIV): “so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.” Is this what you have in mind?

    Get your nose out of their bedrooms and stop dwelling on the sex lives of strangers. (How creepy can you get?)

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  • yoh

    Yep those civil rights leaders were far too “uppity” for your tastes.

    The irony that you are stumping for a new iteration of Jim Crow is not lost on this crowd. Nobody is fooled here into thinking these bills have anything to do with religious freedom. You and other haters just want a legalized excuse for discrimination.

  • yoh

    …and yet you support reviving it against a new set of victims. That;s irony for you. You aren’t doing anyone favors by supporting legalized discrimination of any given group.

    You are certainly not harmed by marriage equality by any stretch of the imagination. Its given you a hobby. Someone to hate that you think is socially acceptable for the moment.

    What is damaging to society are self-righteous bigots who think their religion and their malice deserve color of law. Thanks to those types the words religious freedom have an ironic tone to them in public discourse. They have defiled the term for the rest of us.

  • J R Tomlin

    The correct word is not ‘rebuff’. It is discriminate.

  • Ben in Oakland

    A destructive force, eh, doc?

    Here’s your chance. Explain with facts, logic, and experience exactly how that works.

    I know you Can do it, doc. And then you’ll be able to prove once and for all you’re not just a garden variety bigot, like so many, hiding behind the religion you profess to believe and the stories you make up to scare yourself.

  • Re: “Skin color is not the same as sexual preference.”

    Actually, it is … insofar as skin color and sexual preferences are both things people are born with, not things they choose.

  • To date I have never heard any explanation for precisely how and why it harms Christians to have to do business with gays. I mean, seriously … how is a Christian bar owner hurt if a gay person walks in and orders a drink? Or a Christian store owner harmed if a gay walks up to cash register and buys something? Or a Christian restaurateur damaged by a gay walking in and getting a dinner?

    Someone needs to illustrate this harm … because it’s just not apparent to me. I eagerly await a cogent explanation, although I don’t expect ever to get one.

  • Doc Anthony

    Ben says, “Explain with facts, logic, and experience exactly how that works. I know you Can do it, doc.”

    Me too. In fact I’ve done it in this forum. I usually start with the “Gay Men’s” anti-gay-marriage explanation, because it catches most readers by surprise.

    From there, I simply order up the combo platter: Atheist, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, Nones, Catholics,
    Protestants, almost the entire pizza.

    Even the Thai Buddhists cracked down on some of their priests for “causing trouble in the temples.” (Hmm!)

    So no disrespect Ben, but I have this file folder that pretty much covers the entire “rainbow”, so to speak. Everything from deprivation on kids’ hearts, to deprivation on the community and its family-based shared-values. That’s gay marriage.

    And that’s WITHOUT EVEN bringing up any of those Bible verses (or for Muslims, the Koran verses) that nobody can refute. But I can bring them up as well, if you insist.

  • S. Keegan

    Don’t like discrimination? Don’t discriminate. It’s as simple as that, quit forcing your totalitarian view of morality on a society that by and large already agrees to serve anyone and let people associate or not as they choose.

  • Neon Genesis

    It seems hypocritical to me for the Mississippi governor to justify this bill by saying it’s ok to discriminate against gays because homosexuality is a choice yet he’s opposed to supposed “discrimination” against Christianity even though being a Christian is also a choice. Does he not realize how contradictory that is?

  • Richard Rush

    And, justifying this bill is even more hypocritical in light of the fact that, since 1964, Federal law protects people from discrimination based on their religious beliefs. Thus, while Christians can feel secure in knowing they are protected, they want a new law that specifically enables them to discriminate against others.

  • ben in oakland

    But doc, you didn’t actually say anything. You just tried to Trump us.

    You have the files. Theymust be Huuuuuuge. So, go ahead, explain it,.

  • Barb Roset

    I didn’t realize until recently that the Evangelical religion was so different from other Christian religions. It’s the only one I’m aware of that feels empowered to judge and punish others if they don’t agree with their religious ideals. I’m Christian (Catholic) and was taught God the Father was the ONLY ONE to judge people. And as Christians we’re expected to be like-Jesus and help people through life, not make it more difficult for them. Good & helpful Christians -vs- Christians who judge others. Hmm, sounds more like what the God-fearing Muslims have to deal with.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    Doc is lying. Science has proven sexual orientation is inborn and unchangeable. The US Supreme Court, several US federal and several US State Supreme Courts have examined that evidence and ruled that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is similarly unconstitutional as discrimination based on race because BOTH are IMMUTABLE characteristics. Here are just 18 of tens of thousands of respected websites (and a citation from Fox News for the doubters) that document this:

    http://www-news.uchicago.edu/releases/03/differential-brain-activation.pdf
    http://www.newscientist.com/channel/sex/dn14146-gay-brains-structured-like-those-of-the-opposite-sex.html
    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,155990,00.html
    http://www.livescience.com/health/060224_gay_genes.html
    http://www.springerlink.com/content/w27453600k586276/

  • CarrotCakeMan

    I’d say the word “attack” is correct also. The North Carolina anti-gay Hate Law says public employees may choose not to render taxpayer-provided services to LGBT Americans, meaning an EMT could walk away from an LGBT American to die.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    PSICop, anti-gays won’t be able to give you any documentation, but they will claim that their intended LGBT victims have “bullied” or “harassed” them. Some anti-gays even claim they have received “death threats,” but not one legitimate media report includes police were involved at all, let alone confirming the “death threats.” This wild claim anti-gays made became common with the 2008 California anti-gay H8te Vote. Anti-gays even cobbled together a “report” of 4,000 such alleged incidents from California, but there’s no evidence any of them even contacted police. Such a complaint, if false, would be a criminal offence.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    The Mississippi governor knows he is lying. Science has proven sexual orientation is inborn and unchangeable. The US Supreme Court, several US federal and several US State Supreme Courts have examined that evidence and ruled that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is similarly unconstitutional as discrimination based on race because BOTH are IMMUTABLE characteristics. A quick look on any search engine on the phrase “Physiological Basis of Homosexuality” turns up over 26,000 articles, the vast majority supporting the biological basis of same sex attraction, but NONE of them have any PROOF for the wild claim anti-gays make that “it’s a choice.” That’s where the similarity ends, but it means it was just as UNCONSTITUTIONAL and WRONG to try to HURT LGBT Americans with anti-gay Hate Votes and Hate Laws as Jim Crow laws were.

  • CarrotCakeMan
  • CarrotCakeMan
  • CarrotCakeMan
  • G Key

    Considering the degree to which respectful Christians and trespassing Christians disagree about such a fundamentally moral question as how they should treat their neighbors, I wish the two opposing sides would meet and decide this all-too-obviously internal family conflict (sibling rivalry?) in-house before taking it out on strangers.

    It seems to me that, until this preschool-level moral disagreement is resolved, there’s no question whatsoever about the “morality” of some of God’s children haughtily & naughtily disrespecting others without even bothering to discuss their own behavior with their own family under their own God.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    This is a form of the most frequently repeated anti-gay lie of today, that anti-gays are somehow being “discriminated against” or “bullied” by their intended LGBT American victims. Anti-gays are the ones who are still trying to force their “view of morality” onto unwilling Americans with this Mississippi anti-gay bill.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    Remember, the anti-gays who call themselves “Christians” attacked the many American Christian and Jewish denominations who want to marry same gender couples and deprived them of their Freedom Of Religion until last summer’s Supreme Court ruling. I’d say this is evidence that the small minority of American Christians who want to attack LGBT Americans by subverting the US Constitution are indeed preschool-level, but I’d say the United Church of Christ is PhD lever, in that they stood up to anti-gays and for their Freedom Of Religion in federal court in the case that revoked NC’s previous anti-gay law denying LGBT Americans marriage equality.

  • a4nick8er

    Never underestimate the South’s ability to write Jim Crow laws, this time targeting LGBT’s. What a waste of time, no court will uphold discrimination.

  • S. Keegan

    False. This bill merely allows those who are anti gay to run their businesses accordingly, it does not force any business to deny service to gays. Any business which chooses to discriminate should be allowed to do so.
    I repeat: if you don’t like discrimination, don’t discriminate, but quit forcing your totalitarian, moral-busybody views down everyone’s throats.

  • yoh

    What are you smoking and isn’t it probably illegal?

    “Any business which chooses to discriminate should be allowed to do so.”

    No they should not. Doing so harms the open market and those being discriminated against. You are terrible person. If you think respect for civil liberties of others is totalitarian, you are probably recovering from a lobotomy. You want to discriminate, go eff yourself. You don’t have the right, you don’t deserve a right to do so.

    If you feel that you are being forced into being civil to others and feel restrained from being malicious and harmful to others, GOOD!!!

  • G Key

    Thanks for the reminder, CCM, and for the important example of the United Church of Christ’s decision to stand up to its tantrum-throwing, too-big-for-their-britches siblings-in-faith-if-not-behavior.

    You’re an admirable source of valuable information! Thanks for sharing your knowledge so freely.

  • Richard Rush

    S. Keegan, I assume you are organizing a campaign to repeal the portion of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that bans discrimination against people based on their religious beliefs. Surely, you agree that I should be permitted to discriminate against TrueChristians because their evidence-free sincerely held beliefs are sincerely offensive in the way they cultivate hate and encourage the infliction of suffering on those who are hated.

  • Everett

    The Southern Poverty Law Center is a political entity that will slime anyone with whom they disagree with.

  • S. Keegan

    Respect for others isn’t totalitarian. Mandating that respect is. Discrimination does not harm the open market, government restrictions on individual behavior, including whom to cater in their business, do.
    I oppose the government enforcement of morality you are championing, as this is always the cry of totalitarian regimes which purport to oppress the citizenry ‘for their own good.’
    Instead, I support the right to freedom of association for all men, which includes the freedom not to associate. Any relationship which is not mutually voluntary is unjust.

  • S. Keegan

    Organizing? No, but I support such measures, and believe wholeheartedly that it should be repealed.
    You are correct, I fully support your right to discriminate against Christians, for any or no reason whatsoever. Any just transaction is mutually voluntary, and if you do not want to serve Christians it is absolutely proper for you to refuse to do so.

  • yoh

    Especially groups which attack civil liberties and use political power to spread bigotry. The problem with your statement is the failure to acknowledge some groups deserve to be slimed with the label of hate group. Especially those who seek to give bigotry color of law.

  • yoh

    Discrimination prevents open markets. Malicious harmful behavior is exactly the type which requires to be reigned in by laws. You want to attack people without consequences. Well T.S. you never had that right.

    You oppose government enforcing rule of law and not giving you a special privilege. Your position is childish malicious d00kie.

    Your freedom of association argument was a loser to those supporting segregation, it remains one now. Your right to do anything is always tempered by a prohibition on harming others in the process.

    I can’t even pretend you have a point which requires being taken seriously.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    No one is “mandating” that taxpayer-paid emergency medical technicians “respect” LGBT Americans, S. Keegan, but, yes, this Hate Law would allow a homophobic EMT to leave an LGBT American to die. Repeating your many deceptions won’t make them become true.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    At least that’s what you claim here, S. Keegan. We routinely see anti-gays falsely claim they “don’t hate” LGBT Americans and “support their rights if only they wouldn’t” work for those rights.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    Everett just slimed the SPLC, with no backup for his claim.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    While I agree, with the recent revocation of their anti-gay adoption law by a federal court, you would think the Mississippi governor would face the fact this latest anti-gay law will be revoked as well–but only after another huge waste of taxpayer dollars, both at the state as well as federal level.

    Anti-gays are even demanding LGBT Americans finance their attacks on LGBT Americans. It’s time anti-gays were held financially responsible, jointly and severally, and forced to pay back their financial debt to American taxpayers.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    Thank you!

  • Lynne

    So, does this allow the people of Mississippi to discrimate against Jews, Muslims, Scientologists and any other group that they believe conflicts with their Christian religious beliefs?

  • john

    So what does this mean, that if you own a business and your gay, you can choose not to do business with straight Christians, because they hate gay’s. its all about the state and there backwards life living in the 20’s they really need to worry about how many of them love there goats.

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