Most state legislatures backed down on their “religious liberty” measures when they were introduced earlier this year (or in Arizona’s case, had the governor do it for them). Not Mississippi. The state that vies for the title of most backward in the nation has passed a measure that would allow individuals to discriminate against LGBT people if it comports with their religious beliefs.
The Mississippi bill is a watered-down version of the Arizona bill, but has largely the same effect. Any business owner can basically ignore nondiscrimination provisions if he or she feels that it violates religious principles. In perhaps the lamest fig leaf ever, the bill was stripped of language that civil rights groups objected to, giving supporters of the bill an excuse to claim that it wasn’t The Mississippi Homophobe Protection Act.
“It protects Christians in the state from discrimination,” Republican Rep. Andy Gipson, who’s a Baptist pastor, said.
Needless to say, professional homophobes are thrilled with the measure. “This is a victory for the First Amendment and the right to live and work according to one’s conscience,” Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, said. “This commonsense measure was a no-brainer for freedom.” Which is true, if by freedom you mean the right to ignore laws you find inconvenient.
Gov. Phil Bryant has promised to sign the bill. The fact that Bryant is rumored to have at least one close family member who is gay seems not to be a deterrent to his rush to prove his antigay creds.
As for the impact on Mississippi’s reputation, Democratic Sen. David Blount, an outspoken opponent of the bill, said it best: “We don’t have a lot of good will out there in the country to fall back on when it comes to a record against discrimination.”