Mississippi Senate Passes “Religious Liberty” Bill
The Mississippi Senate voted Wednesday evening to pass a religious freedom bill that some sources are saying could have a very negative impact on the LGBT+ community throughout the country.
A Republican-dominated Senate voted (31 for, 17 opposed) and passed the bill, named the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience From Government Discrimination Act.” The legislation states that any business, public employee or social worker can not be punished for denying services to a potential client based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill, however, does not allow the government to prevent same-sex marriages, bar the adoption of a child by a same-sex couple nor businesses to fire or not hire an individual based on sexual or gender identity.
Republican Senator Chris McDaniel stated that this bill protects the first amendment rights of Mississippi citizens, barring the government from interfering with the citizens’ civil liberties. “Why not preserve the first amendment? Why not preserve the civil liberties that should have always been preserved, not necessarily by individual actors but by state action, limit the power of the state, control those passions?” he said.
Opponents to the bill, like Senator John Horhn, believe that the bill is damaging to Mississippi’s reputation. He said, “Why do we keep doing this to ourselves, Mississippi? And we wonder why the rest of the world thinks so badly of us. It’s because of some things that we do that are unjust.”
The Mississippi Senate voted again (28 for, 18 opposed) Thursday in the last procedural act of the bill. The bill will move back to the Mississippi’s House of Representatives for another vote and, if passed there, will continue on to the Governor.
A bill of a similar nature has just recently been vetoed in Georgia. After facing pressure from business interests, Governor Nathan Deal blocked the bill from becoming law. Companies including Disney, the NFL and Coca-Cola threatened to pull business out of the sate should the bill pass. Gov. Deal released an official statement saying, “I believe it is a matter of character for our state. I do not think that we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia." Like the bill in Mississippi, the Georgia religious freedom bill would have protected religious officials and businesses from serving LGBT+ individuals whose lifestyles they claim violate their beliefs.