Magnolia State lawmakers are supporting a new bill originally called the "Religious Liberty Accommodations Act," which would mean no discriminatory action could be taken against anyone who believes marriage should be a union between a man and a woman. House members voted 80-39 Friday to pass House Bill 1523, after it was approved by House Judiciary committee members by a 14-3 margin. The name was changed in committee to the "Protecting Freedom of Conscience From Government Discrimination Act."
If ultimately passed, the bill would allow individuals, religious organizations and private associations to cite religious objections to homosexuality, same-sex marriage, extramarital sex (where marriage is the union of one man and one woman) or transgenderism. Opponents of the bill were quick to scream that it would discriminate against LGBTZ Mississippians.
The bill specifically cites the decision of Catholic Charities, and other religious adoption and foster care agencies, to close operations, following the legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, Illinois and the District of Columbia as justification for its provisions, as well as the recent decision in Massachusetts where an all-girls Catholic school was found to have discriminated against a cafeteria worker on the basis of his sexual orientation, reports Metro Weekly.
The Clarion-Ledger summarized the proposed act in three major points: Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman; Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage; and Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual's immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.
"In a pluralistic society, in which people of good faith hold more than one view of marriage, it is possible for the government to recognize same-sex marriage without forcing persons with sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions to conform," the bill reads.
In short, the bill condones discrimination against LGBT people in housing, employment, public accommodations, and in the provision of goods and services, wrote Metro Weekly writer John Riley. The bill also provides protection from legal action for adoption and foster care agencies that wish to continue receiving taxpayer money to operate and carry out child placement "while discriminating against same-sex couples." The bill also would allow foster families to have LGBT children placed with them to have conversion therapy, Riley pointed out.
Another provision in the bill would allow employers and school administrators to require transgender employees or students use sex-segregated facilities, and adhere to grooming standards as determined by their biological sex, rather than their gender identity.
Another clause would enable state and local county employees, including clerks, deputy clerks, registers of deeds, judges, magistrates and justices of the peace, to refuse to participate in the licensure or the performance of a same-sex marriage ceremony.
The bill also could allow counselors to refuse to provide counseling services to LGBTZ people or single mothers based on the counselor's personal religious beliefs.
"Quite simply, this bill is not about religion; it is about discrimination," Rob Hill, the Mississippi state director for the Human Rights Campaign and a former United Methodist pastor, said in a statement. "The reprehensible legislation advanced by House Judiciary today will without a doubt have widespread, hurtful consequences not just for LGBT people and their families, but for the entire Magnolia State. Fair-minded Mississippians have a duty to urge their elected officials to reject this shameful legislation and stop radical, discriminatory measures like H.B. 1523."
The bill now heads to the full House for consideration. If passed by both chambers of the legislature, it is expected to earn support from Gov. Phil Bryant (R), who signed a similar measure guaranteeing religious liberty into law in 2014.