Mississippi Passes Pro-Discrimination 'Religious Freedom' Bill, Just Weeks After Arizona Narrowly Escaped The Same Thing
Here we go again. Mississippi passed a bill Tuesday that critics say is just a thinly veiled disguise of anti-gay discrimination legislation, potentially making it legal for anyone to refuse service to LGBT customers. Proponents counter that the bill would protect religious freedom in the state. Just last month, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed an anti-gay bill that would have allowed businesses to deny gay customers if the owners disagreed with the prospective patrons' lifestyle. Unlike Brewer, however, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant says he will sign the bill into law.
After the nationwide protests against Arizona's bill, Mississippi legislators revisited the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act to refresh some of the language after it stalled in the state House because of concerns about discrimination. The wording of the new bill is so broad, however, it's difficult to make sense of the whole thing.
The bill promises that "state action or an action by any person based on state action shall not burden a person's right to exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability."
So what the heck does that mean? Slate's Mark Joseph Stern argues that the bill's cryptic text is completely intentional, so that a court can't question the constitutionality of the wording itself. That also opens up the possibility of discrimination against basically anyone, including divorced people.
The bill would also add the words "In God We Trust" to the state seal, something Bryant supports.
The Arizona bill was similarly all-encompassing, inciting protests in the state. To refresh your memory, as Bustle reported:
The bill, pushed forward mainly by conservative Republicans, provides legal protection for private and public businesses that decide not to serve someone, anyone, because of their religious beliefs. Similar bills have previously flopped in Kansas and Idaho, and, only earlier this week, three more states tried — and failed — to push forward legislation that would essentially do the same thing. Arizona, though, had no issues getting the measure through, voting on Thursday to make discrimination permissible “whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief” — thus, unfortunately, making history.
So where are the outrage and protests this time? Reaction seems more muted than was the case with the Arizona bill, with the ACLU hoping "that courts throughout the state will reject any attempts to use religion to justify discrimination."
Mississippi is on quite a roll lately; the poorest state in the nation just passed a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks even in cases of rape and incest.