New anti-LGBT law administered for businesses in Mississippi

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Mississippi
Mississippi’s latest LGBT law is not so welcoming

The governor of Mississippi has signed into law a highly controversial anti-LGBT bill, that allows businesses to legally refuse service to same-sex couples based on their religious beliefs.

The new bill means that a gay person living in the state can be refused service in a shop, or even medical assistance in a hospital, so long as that couple’s existence conflicts with the “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions” of the business owner.

House Bill 1523, also known as the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act”, has been described as the “most sweeping anti-LGBT legislation” in the country.

Governor Phil Bryant released a statement on Twitter after signing the bill, protesting accusations that the bill is discriminatory against LGBT Mississippians. Instead, Bryant said, the bill would not limit the rights of citizens under the US Constitution, and was only designed to “prevent government interference in the lives of the people”.

He added that 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”.

The bill, which also 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 legislation to classify 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 bill 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.

“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.”

 

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