Pahichan/ April 10 – Civil rights group called it ‘a sad day for Mississippi’ as bill allowing businesses to discriminate against same-sex couples on moral grounds becomes law
The governor of Mississippi has signed into law a bill that allows private and public businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples, so long as that couple’s existence conflicts with the “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions” of the business owner.
Governor Phil Bryant released a statement on Twitter after signing House Bill 1523, also known as the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act”, protesting accusations that the bill facilitates discrimination against LGBT Mississippians. Instead, Bryant said, the bill “merely reinforces the rights which currently exist to the exercise of religious freedom as stated in the first amendment to the US constitution”.
The bill, which additionally asserts that marriage “is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman” and that sexual relations are “properly reserved” only for such unions, is also the first statewide legislation to codify the belief that transgender individuals are to be considered members of the gender they are assigned at birth, regardless of their own gender identity.
“Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth,” the measure states.
While individuals, businesses and charities may decline to provide services to LGBT customers, the bill still requires the state government to provide services – although it does allow government employees to opt out of providing services individually.
“[The bill] does not attempt to challenge federal laws, even those which are in conflict with the Mississippi Constitution, as the Legislature recognizes the prominence of federal law in such limited circumstances,” Bryant wrote.
“This is a sad day for the state of Mississippi and for the thousands of Mississippians who can now be turned away from businesses, refused marriage licenses, or denied housing, essential services and needed care based on who they are,” the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi said in a statement.
“This bill flies in the face of the basic American principles of fairness, justice and equality and will not protect anyone’s religious liberty. Far from protecting anyone from ‘government discrimination’ as the bill claims, it is an attack on the citizens of our state, and it will serve as the Magnolia State’s badge of shame.”
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