Is Mississippi’s New Law Anti-LGBT?

Last week, Mississippi passed a new state law. Social media and your newspapers promptly exploded. Shaun King, via his Twitter account called the act “the most hateful anti-LGBT legislation in the country.” Mr. King certainly was not the bill’s only detractor.

But is the bill really a “hateful anti-LGBT” document?

In today’s soundbite world, the majority of the country takes in bits and pieces of the news. We go to Twitter and Facebook for everything. We rarely take the ten or fifteen minutes necessary to read an article in its entirety, instead opting to skim through the headers. In this world, both the Left and the Right mold the minds of their constituents 140 characters at a time. Who needs to actually read the document? If Shaun King tweeted that its “hateful” and “anti-LGBT,” then it must be. So we retweet it without further study and we collectively bash Mississippi’s government for passing the act.

My challenge to you is to READ THE DOCUMENT. Sure, you should consult sources via the radio, newspaper, or social media who understand the situation better than yourself. But don’t let big media, big entertainment, and big government decide for you.

In fact, I’ll even provide a link to the bill. Here ya go. You’re a click away. Take twenty minutes and read the bill. Take ten additional minutes and read my summary below. Then ask yourself, “is this really a hateful, anti-LGBT bill? Is it more about sexual orientation based discrimination, or is it more about protecting religious liberty?”

One day, you might be in a situation to vote for or against a government official who would support or reject this kind of bill. How would you respond? This is important stuff. It’s too important, in fact, for us to allow 140 character, emotionally charged soundbites to inform our opinions.

Summary of Mississippi House Bill No. 1523 (As Sent to Governor)

Section 1:

  • “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act”

Section 2:

  • Relates to 3 sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions: 1) marriage should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman; 2) sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage; 3) male or female refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex objectively assigned at birth

Section 3:

  • The state won’t take a discriminatory action against a religious organization wholly or partially on the basis that the organization: “solemnizes or declines to solemnize any marriage, or provides or declines to provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods or privileges for a purpose relate to the solemnization, formation, celebration or recognition of any marriage, based upon…a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction” mentioned above. (For example, a Christian or Jewish or Islamic photographer can decline to photograph the wedding of two women or two men, based on the religious convictions of that photographer because of the religious nature of a marriage ceremony. This does NOT include ordinary service. For example, this would not exempt a Christian restaurant from serving food to a gay person based on that person’s sexual orientation.)
  • The state won’t take a discriminatory action against a religious organization wholly or partially that hires, fires, or disciplines based on behavior that is out of the bounds of that religious organization’s religious beliefs or moral convictions mentioned above. (For example, if a person decides to work for a Christian company and that company holds a moral standard of what it means to be a Christian, and that person breaks that moral code that he or she signs on to as an employee, the company can discipline or fire that person. Moreover, the Christian or religious company can refuse to hire someone based on that person’s unwillingness to agree to the moral standard of the company.)
  • The state won’t take a discriminatory action against a religious organization wholly or partially that refuses to rent or sell living space to a person or persons based on the religious beliefs and moral convictions mentioned above. (For example, an Air B&B renter could refuse to allow a newly-wed gay couple to rent their property for their honeymoon. They could also refuse to allow an unmarried couple from renting their property. This rests upon the conviction that allowing said couples to have sex on their property would make them complicit in the sinful action, and would offend the conscience of the religious person.)
  • The state will not take discriminatory action against adoption or foster care agencies who refuse to provide adoption or foster care related services to individuals based upon a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction listed above.
  • The state will not take discriminatory action against a person or couple who adopts or fosters and raises that child or those children in a manner consistent with their religious beliefs and moral convictions.
  • The state will not discriminate against a person who declines to provide treatment, counseling, or surgeries RELATED TO gender reassignment or “gender identity transitioning,” based on the religious beliefs and moral convictions mentioned above. “THIS SUBSECTION SHALL NOT BE CONSTRUED TO ALLOW ANY PERSON TO DENY VISITATION, RECOGNITION OF A DESIGNATED REPRESENTATIVE FOR HEALTH CARE DECISION-MAKING, OR EMERGENCY MEDICAL TREATMENT NECESSARY TO CURE AN ILLNESS OR INJURY AS REQUIRED BY LAW.”
  • The state will not discriminate against an employer on the basis that the employer establishes employee policies which are sex-specific, as it relates to “employee or student dress or grooming, or concerning access to restrooms, spas, baths, showers, dressing rooms, locker rooms, or other intimate facilities or settings, based upon or in a manner consistent with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction” mentioned above.”
  • The state will not discriminate against individuals who hold to the religious beliefs and moral convictions mentioned above as it regards their right to peaceably assemble and their right to free speech.
  • Any person required by the state to issue marriage licenses may opt out, based on the religious beliefs and moral convictions mentioned above, provided that written notice is provided prior to the event. THE STATE WILL, IN SUCH A SITUATION, PROVIDE OTHERS WHO CAN COMPLETE THE ACT IN GOOD CONSCIENCE. In such a situation, “the Administrative Office of Courts shall take all necessary steps to ensure that the performance or solemnization of any legally valid marriage is not impeded or delayed as a result of any recusal.”

Section 4

  • This section describes the “discriminatory action” which the government is vowing NOT to take against such individuals as listed above in such cases as listed above.

Sections 5, 6, 7

  • These sections explains how such persons as listed above may go about asserting a violation of this act.

Section 8

  • This act is part “of a broad protection of free exercise of religious beliefs and moral convictions, to the maximum extent permitted by the state and federal constitutions.”

Section 9

  • This section gives definitions to words used throughout the document, such as “religious organization,” “state government,” and “person.”

Sections 10, 11

  • These sections finalize and announce when the act will go into effect (July 1, 2016).
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