Mississippi’s ‘religious freedom’ bill moves to governor amid gay-rights protests

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Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant's office says he will carefully review a religious freedom bill opposed by LGBT rights activists.   REUTERS/Rogelio V. Solis

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant's office says he will carefully review a religious freedom bill opposed by LGBT rights activists. REUTERS/Rogelio V. Solis

(Reuters) – A Mississippi measure that would allow people with religious objections to deny wedding services to same-sex couples and provide wide protections for actions decried as discriminatory by gay rights advocates passed the state legislature on Friday.

Opponents plan a last-ditch attempt to stop the legislation on Monday before it heads to Mississippi Republican Governor Phil Bryant, whose spokesman said he would decide whether to sign or veto it after a thorough review.

Bryant previously said he did not consider the bill discriminatory, according to WLOX television in Mississippi.

The fight comes after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year legalizing same-sex marriage. In a wave of state-level legislation, social conservatives have pushed measures seen as harmful to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender men and women.

A new law barring transgender people in North Carolina from choosing bathrooms consistent with their gender identity has drawn wide protest, while the governors of Georgia and Virginia vetoed similar “religious liberty” bills this week.

Representative Andy Gipson, a Republican sponsor of the Mississippi measure, urged his colleagues on Friday not to be intimidated by national media criticism. He highlighted a poll that showed wide support for the measure in the state.

“It’s time that we stand up and do the work of the people and protect the freedoms that they enjoy,” he said.

The bill includes provisions that go beyond same-sex marriages, according to the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay rights advocacy group that has labeled the act appalling.

“We urge Governor Bryant to do the right thing – reject discrimination, and veto this harmful measure when it reaches his desk,” said HRC President Chad Griffin earlier this week.

The legislation would allow employers to cite religious conviction in determining workplace policies on dress code, grooming and bathroom and locker access.

Foster parents would be protected in placing lesbian, gay or transgender children into controversial programs seeking to change their sexual orientation, said Ben Needham, director of HRC’s “Project One America” to expand lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in the U.S. South.

He said the legislation could also permit discrimination against single mothers, for example, byreligious-affiliated organizations such as homeless shelters and food pantries.

Additionally, state court clerks could seek to be recused from providing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Some of Mississippi’s large employers, such as Nissan North America and MGM Resorts International, have spoken out against legislation that would discriminate.

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  • Everett

    Let them eat a rainbow frosted chocolate cake.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    The media focuses on the “bathroom lie” in these anti-gay bills, but ignores the very real attack on all LGBT Americans these bills make. In NC, anyone who claims a “sincerely held religious belief” can refuse to provide services to LGBT Americans. Even a public employee who is a police officer, fire fighter or EMT can leave an LGBT American to die because they “don’t believe in being gay.” Mississippi’s bill seems to be remarkably similar.

  • Mike

    Seriously: can’t we all just get the $&@# along?

  • Ben inoakland

    Not as long as a certain class of so called Christian continues to confuse “ancient vicious, and deadly prejudice” with “sincere religious beliefs”.

  • DannyJude

    Gov. Bryant said he did not consider the bill discriminatory.

    These pseudo-Christians just LOVE the Bible – except for that pesky “Thou Shalt Not Lie” commandment, of course.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    “North Carolina has faced intense pressure to repeal House Bill 2 from major businesses such as Apple and Facebook, but now, they may lose billions of dollars in federal funding for passing the anti-LGBT bill.

    The Obama administration is in the process of considering whether HB2 makes the state ineligible for federal funding for schools, highways, and housing, reports The New York Times. House Bill 2 bans transgender people from accessing public facilities like bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity, eliminates all existing LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances in the state, and prohibits cities from adopting any new ones.

    The Department of Transportation, the Department of Education, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development all told the paper that they are currently reviewing the law to determine whether the state will continue to be eligible for federal funding.”

    (more)

  • CarrotCakeMan

    “A spokeswoman from the Department of Education told The Times on Friday that they “will not hesitate to act if students’ civil rights are being violated.” Last year, they provided the state with $4.3 billion dollars in funding for kindergarden through 12th grade, and for colleges, reports The Times.

    U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx, is the former mayor of Charlotte. He told The Charlotte Observer that this bill “isn’t who we are.” The Department of Transportation currently provides around $1 billion dollars a year in funding to North Carolina.”

    http://www.advocate.com/business/2016/4/02/north-carolina-may-lose-federal-funding-passing-anti-lgbt-bill

  • jeffsfla

    Look at the bone-headed Governor from AL…while he was getting elected on a “family values” platform and was and continues to be dead set against same sex marriage his wife of 50 years divorced him and he has been boinking a top aide who is on his payroll! Now that is real “family values”! Hypocrite.

  • rusty rider

    It is even worse than that. People can be denied housing and fired from their job just for being LGBT. And this bill will wipe out the meager protections from hate crimes and violence.

  • G Key

    Just because most Christians disagree with your personally chosen (emphasis) values doesn’t mean they’re not “real” Christians — and it certainly doesn’t mean you’re qualified to make that godly judgment.

    Remember how Jesus repeatedly emphasized mercy, and treating your neighbors as you’d like them to treat you, and not to judge others, and to be humble rather than self-exalted?

    Just a friendly reminder that you might want to practice holding only yourself to your own beliefs, and subjecting only yourself to your own faith’s demands (as you see them).

  • yoh

    Its time for Christians like yourself to stop pretending you have any respect for democracy or the civil liberties of others. Its all about using power to aggrandize yourself and attack others.

    As an American living in a nation which has religious freedom I can say without reservation that neither I nor anyone else has to give a flying d00kie what you think the Bible or God says. Nor does anyone have a right to attack others because they think its what God wants.

    Gov. Bryant will mire his state in wasteful litigation, cause misery to many and cause tons of damage to his reputation and what little is left of MS if he signs the bill. Bigotry costs.

  • MaryLou Scherer

    The should be more worried about so many family trees that don´t fork, rather than what consenting adults do in their bedrooms

  • MaryLou Scherer

    What´s your freaking point?…no Christian is being forced to marry anybody

    Why should two lesbians or two gay guys be prevented from getting married just because a religious text or a belief system they are not part of says so?

    Should we also ban pork, seafood, and put menstruating women in quarantine because the bible says so?..are you that ignorant?

  • Religions are nuisance philosophies.
    Religions make claims about gods which are forever unproven, they make demands on society which are unreasonable and they object to all practical solutions.
    It is stunning to see modern people still needing to struggle against these persistent, unhelpful ideas.

  • This recent court decision on gay marriage rights, was extended to us by the majority Christian/Catholic court! What is the problem?

  • Ben in oakland

    Nah. Doc is actually pretty smart, except for the virulently antigay part. And the part where he as a black man misses the exact same stereotyping about negroes* 50 years ago that he now applies to gay people.

    *ironic reference intentional in order to convey similarities in bigotry against black people then and bigotry against gay people now.

  • G Key

    So do you mean it’s time for all Christians to decide the marital, medical, & legal business of strangers? To stone to death your children when they rebel against you? To kill the entire families of those who commit certain prohibited sins? To start going to church on Saturdays? To give up alcohol & shellfish? To start forcing women & minorities to submit to men & majorities? To sell all your possessions so you can afford to feed, clothe, shelter, teach, employ, care for, & protect the hungry, naked, homeless, uneducated, jobless, disabled, & vulnerable? To attack & enslave foreigners, and to take their lands & property? To convert or kill everyone else on Earth?

    Or is this “saving and cleansing work of Christ” just for “genuine” Christians? (There’s that qualifier again.)

    Care to tell all your artificial Christian lessers which commands they must follow, and which they may ignore?

    As you say, ‘That’s not “holier-n-thou’, that’s just common sense.”

  • G Key

    BTW, 1 Cor. 6:9-11 is an Epistle of Paul, not a Gospel of Jesus.

    As I recall, even Paul — famous for his opinionated nature & occasionally misdirected zeal — was both realistic & humble enough to admit that his knowledge & understanding was incomplete & imperfect.

    He set a pretty good example for those quick to criticize others.

  • Doc Anthony

    Please don’t try to argue that the Bible even slightly allows for gay marriage at any time, G Key. You already know the Bible verses (both Old and New Testament) that clearly disallow gay marriage. (We can review them if you like.)

    It’s not difficult. The “pro-gay” Bible arguments have all been debunked.

    So it’s time for genuine Christians to at least AGREE with those Bible verses whenever opportunity is presented — even if it costs them to do so. Stop bowing and kowtowing to Goliath.

    Don’t have to get all complicated. Don’t have to judge. Just agree with the Bible and say that gay marriage is WRONG for this nation — any nation.

    Sell anybody a birthday cake, whether gay or straight, but don’t sell ANY gay wedding cake or gay wedding florald. Don’t play along with Goliath anymore. Fight him.

    “Give up or we’ll PUNISH you!”, Mr. Goliath says.

    So what to do? If you are a Christian, stop hiding. Stand up already !!

  • Pablo

    Evangelicals are not actually Christian. They rejected Christianity around 450 years ago when their predecessors (Calvin, etc.) decided, in their arrogance, that anyone can open the Bible and choose whatever they think a given passage may mean, and apply their personal interpretation to any situation where they think it proves their bias.

    “Solo scriptura” – Evangelicals worship the Bible, not God.

    Just as fundamentalist (Wahhabist) “Muslims” are in truth mere “islamists”, fundamentalist (Calvisinist) “Christians” are mere “christianists”.

  • G Key

    Doc Anthony, I think we can agree on one thing:

    I’ve said before in posts to other articles that I wish Christians on both sides of the issue would meet to debate this in-house with their own family under their own God, and reach a real consensus with each other, before taking it out on people who don’t even go to your church.

    This was how the Apostles handled their internal conflicts (e.g., Peter v. Paul on the circumcision of Gentile converts).

    I see no morality whatsoever in disrespecting the equality, rights, lives, and privacy of others without even bothering to settle this first amongst yourselves.

  • That just sounds so silly.

  • Christianity causes so much misery and pain when they try to force their beliefs on everyone.

  • Sandro P

    This law illustrates to all that Christians are scum.

  • G Key

    I would like to know, though, how you reconcile God’s command to parents — to stone to death their own children when they curse their parents or rebel against them (Leviticus 20:9, Deuteronomy 21:18-21) — with today’s compassionate legal, spiritual, & cultural norms prohibiting you from obeying that particular command from your God.

    It seems to me that, since he ordered the same ultimate penalty for willfully disobedient kids that he ordeed for “homosexuals”, he must consider childhood rebelliousness to be just as mortally sinful.

    More specifically, I’d like to know your thought processes behind the belief that you needn’t obey God’s commands against your kids (for acts that you yourself witness), but that you must obey God’s commands against your neighbors (for acts that you’re not even privy to)?

  • ben in oakland

    I am an atheist, and I have no love for dominionist Christianity.

    But all Christians are scum is wrong. It is no better than saying “all gay people are scum.”

    Actually, it’s worse. We gay people are supposed to be better than that.

  • ben in oakland

    “Please don’t try to argue that the Bible even slightly allows for gay marriage at any time.”

    I can agree with you on that, doc. If you can agree with me that in a secular nation not governed by your religion, I need not care, and it need not govern our secular law.

    ” Don’t have to judge. Just agree with the Bible and say that gay marriage is WRONG for this nation — any nation.”

    The bible actually says nothing on the subject. But you are judging, aren’t you? Not that that matters to you in the slightest. It’s what you live for. I don’t agree that gay marriage is wrong for any nation. But I will agree– you won’t– that bigotry of the kind you always demonstrate is bad for this nation, bad for any nation, bad for gay people, and bad for the world.

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  • Doc Anthony

    All we are asking, G Key, is that wannabee gay activists respect constitutional religious freedoms and NOT try to force Christian families and businesses to **participate** in gay marriage celebrations/rituals/affirmations via providing goods and services.

    Such celebrations/rituals/affirmations are directly opposed to both the Old and New Testaments, directly against the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Already proven.

    (Jesus’s saving and cleansing work is directly mentioned in 1 Cor. 6:9-11, thanks. Jesus does NOT do any gay marriage, sorry.)

    Want to have a gay wedding or reception? Then do it with your OWN friends and family, on your own site or property, with a religious officiant or group that supports gay marriage. That stuff is YOUR chosen religion.

    But please stop trying to FORCE Christian families, Christian bakers and florists and others (some who are even pro-gay), to participate in YOUR chosen religion. That’s what the current bill is all about.

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  • Debbo

    I agree with Ben. This law is terrible and all Christians are not scum. There are wonderful, decent Christian people and there are cruel, fearful, mean Christianists who are only marginally better than violent Islamists.

  • Junebug

    You are so correct, Pablo. And the more the christianists try to dominate secular America, the more they will show their colors and be rejected – or, as they would say “persecuted”.

  • Richard Rush

    Thank you, Bob. I consider it an honor to be a part of “one of the MOST intolerant peoples of this nation and the earth.” who have finally refused to tolerate the imagined divine right of dominionist Christians to implement their traditional bigotry and cruelty through laws specifically sanctioning unfettered oppression, discrimination, persecution, and denigration.

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  • CarrotCakeMan

    Bob Brne is repeating the most common lie anti-gays are promoting today, that their intended LGBT victims are “the real bullies.” Psychologists call this deception “projection,” where anti-gays hope to evade responsibility for their own obvious bullying of LGBT Americans. After all, just what anti-gay was forced to marry someone of his own sex? When and where did LGBT Americans cook up a law, and then commit criminal acts to throw an election to deny anti-gays THEIR Constitutionally protected right to marry the person THEY love?

  • CarrotCakeMan

    You’re correct about employment and housing discrimination, but the federal Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act is still in force.

    This is why it’s so important we voters vote out of Congress the party that refuses even to consider the Employment Non Discrimination Act. Federal, nationwide protections are clearly needed.

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  • George Nixon Shuler

    This is a very astute analysis. Thank you.