Mississippi is close to passing a bill that would explicitly enable outright discrimination against members of the LGBT community. The bill, which as of Wednesday returned to the House for concurrence with an amendment following its approval by both the Mississippi House and Senate, would allow discrimination based on the following beliefs:
From the House Bill 1523:
- Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman.
- Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.
- 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 bill also enumerates the myriad ways that people who hold such beliefs are allowed to discriminate, including the following:
- Government employees, religious organizations, and private individuals and businesses alike would have license to decline any services related to marriage.
- Religious organizations have the license to fire, discipline, or refuse to hire employees.
- Religious organizations may refuse to sell, rent, or provide shelter.
- Religious organizations may refuse to provide fostering and adoptive services without risking state subsidies.
- Foster and adoptive parents have the license to to impose their religious beliefs on their children.
- Employers and educators may establish “sex-specific standards or policies concerning employee or student dress or grooming,” and manage access to restrooms and other sex-segregated facilities.
- State employees may openly express their beliefs without consequence.
Should anyone take advantage of the opportunity to discriminate provided by this bill, they will be protected from any legal consequence, including tax penalties, fines, loss of contracts or grants, loss of benefits, loss of license or certification, or any employment setbacks.
— Bryan Dorr (@BJDorr) March 30, 2016
Furthermore, should anyone facing discrimination sue, the discriminator would be able to cite religious beliefs to justify their behavior and would not only win the court case, but would also be eligible to receive compensatory damages from those they have discriminated against.
Additionally, the bill would void any municipal laws seeking to protect LGBT individuals from discrimination.
Though the bill is most harmful to members of the LGBT community, it may also have much wider-reaching implications, potentially impacting single mothers and divorcees, among others.
Protect Thy Neighbor, a group which advocates for the separation of church and state, has created a list of hypothetical scenarios which may result from the passage of this bill. These scenarios include, for example, the possibility that adoption agencies could refuse to place a child with a family if the parents lived together before they were married and even allow businesses to fire women for wearing pants (though ThinkProgress notes that the latter would likely be prevented under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act).
Though these examples seem absurd, they are no more ridiculous than the fact that in 2016, states are seeking to legally protect discrimination against the LGBT community.