JACKSON, MS - Today, following the Mississippi State Legislature's final vote to approval H.B. 1523, a measure opposed by some of the state's largest employers, the Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) Mississippi called on Governor Phil Bryant to veto this harmful legislation. Major corporations are among those urging Governor Bryant, House Speaker Philip A. Gunn and Lt. Governor Tate Reeves to stop to this discriminatory measure that would put the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender ( LGBT ) community at risk of discrimination.
"We call on Gov. Bryant to veto this discriminatory and deplorable bill, that would put his own constituents at risk of harassment and discrimination where they work, in their schools and in their communities," said HRC President Chad Griffin. "Gov. Bryant has a clear choice — and if he wants to lead his state forward, he should follow the example of Republican Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who understood that discrimination in any form is unacceptable."
Nissan Group of North America, Tyson Food Inc, MGM Resorts International and Toyota, are publicly opposing the bill, which would allow individuals, religious organizations and private associations to use religion to discriminate against LGBT Mississippians, in some of the most important aspect of their lives, including at work, at schools, in their family life and more. National corporations, such as AT&T, IBM, Levi Strauss & Co, MassMutual, General Electric, and Hyatt Hotel Corporations, have also expressed deep reservations about the discriminatory measure.
Earlier today, HRC Mississippi joined advocates from the ACLU of Mississippi, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Planned Parenthood Southeast, in urging House Speaker Philip A. Gunn and Governor Bryant to put a stop to this terrible legislation.
Yesterday, artists Lance Bass and Mary Elizabeth Ellis released a video calling on their fellow Mississippians to take action against H.B. 1523, and last week, the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi released a strongly worded statement condemning the discriminatory legislation. It reads in part, "The Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi stands as one with our brothers and sisters in the LGBT community and the Human Rights Campaign. We respect their painful journey as they have sought full inclusion in our society. Many of them share a Christian faith that is deep and profound. We should embrace their quest for equality and justice rather than placing obstacles in their pathway. The Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi also released a statement calling a veto that read in part, "The Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi stands as one with our brothers and sisters in the LGBT community and the Human Rights Campaign. We respect their painful journey as they have sought full inclusion in our society. Many of them share a Christian faith that is deep and profound. We should embrace their quest for equality and justice rather than placing obstacles in their pathway."
Under H.B. 1523, religion could be used by most any individual or organization to justify discrimination against LGBT people, single mothers, unwed couples and others. Tax-payer funded faith-based organizations could: refuse to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples for provision of critical services including emergency shelter; deny children in need of loving homes placement with LGBT families including the child's own family member; and refuse to sell or rent a for-profit home to an LGBT person — even if the organization receives government funding. As introduced, H.B. 1523 would also give foster families the freedom to subject an LGBTQ child to the dangerous practice of "conversion therapy," and shame a pregnant unwed girl, without fear of government intervention or license suspension. It would even allow individuals to refuse to carry out the terms of a state contract for the provision of counseling services to all eligible individuals, including veterans, based on the counselor's beliefs about LGBT people or single mothers.
Furthermore, schools, employers and service providers could implement sex-specific dress and grooming standards, as well as refuse transgender people access to the appropriate sex-segregated facilities, consistent with their gender identity — all in conflict with the United States Department of Justice's enforcement of federal law. H.B. 1523 even legalizes Kim Davis-style discrimination by allowing government employees to abdicate their duties and refuse to license or solemnize marriages for LGBT people.
The Mississippi Senate voted to advance H.B.1523 last week by a 31-17 vote, but the bill was sent back to the House for a procedural vote on a new amendment. The attacks on fairness and equality in Mississippi are part of an onslaught of anti-LGBT bills being pushed this year by anti-equality activists across the country. HRC is currently tracking nearly 200 anti-LGBT bills in 34 states. As of today, at least half of these bills have been beaten back around the country. For more information, visit: www.hrc.org/2016legislature.
The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. HRC envisions a world where LGBT people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.