Follow breaking news @lgbtqnation
Mississippi

Miss. lawmakers confused whether their own religious freedom bill is anti-gay

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. — Several Mississippi lawmakers say they’re confused about whether a freedom-of-religion bill is similar to a widely criticized Arizona measure that would allow people to assert religious beliefs in refusing business services to same-sex couples.

Mississippi state capitol in Jackson.

Mississippi state capitol in Jackson.

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant said Wednesday that he wants attorneys to study Senate Bill 2681, called the “Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” It passed the Senate on Jan. 31 and awaits consideration in a House committee.

“I haven’t carefully read it, and so I’d hate to comment on something I don’t know for sure, but I realize that that establishes a religious freedom, as I understand it, for the exercise of that freedom. But I wouldn’t want to discuss the details of it,” Bryant said in response to questions from The Associated Press.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi opposes the bill, saying it would allow discrimination against people based on race, sexual identity, religion and national origin.

“No state law should infringe upon constitutionally guaranteed rights, nor should any state law give a person a right to violate another person’s rights,” the ACLU said in a news release.

During the Mississippi Senate debate, there was no mention of whether the bill would allow discrimination against gay people or other groups. Rather, the debate focused on whether there’s a need for a state law to spell out the freedom to practice religion that’s already guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.

Senators amended the bill to add “In God We Trust” to the state seal, and passed the bill 48-0. Bryant said during his State of the State speech Jan. 22 that he wants to add the phrase to the state seal. He said Wednesday that he had hoped legislators would deal with the seal in a separate bill, not tied to other issues.

The bill awaits consideration in the House Judiciary B Committee, where Chairman Andy Gipson said he has assigned it to a subcommittee for scrutiny.

“There are a lot of questions about it,” Gipson, R-Braxton, said Wednesday. “It is not the Arizona bill. We just need to study it.”

However, Campaign for Southern Equality, a group that promotes equal treatment for LGBT people, says the Mississippi bill is similar to the one in Arizona.

“It’s clear that this extreme bill is about legalizing discrimination not protecting religious freedoms,” the group’s executive director, the Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, said in a news release criticizing the Mississippi bill. “This proposed legislation is a step in the wrong direction as we move toward acceptance of LGBT people in all facets of life.”

The Mississippi and Arizona bills are not identical but have similar phrases, and critics say those could lead to a person refusing to provide business services for a celebration by a same-sex couple, for example.

The Mississippi bill says: “‘Exercise of religion’ includes, but is not limited to, the ability to act or the refusal to act in a manner that is substantially motivated by one’s sincerely held religious belief, whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.”

The Arizona bill says: “‘Exercise of religion’ means the practice or observance of religion, including the ability to act or refusal to act in a manner substantially motivated by a religious belief, whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.”

Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson, said in brief interview and in a Facebook post on Wednesday that he is asking House members to remove portions of the bill that could lead to discrimination.

“I was not aware (nor was any other senator or interest group or citizen that I have talked to aware) of this intention or possible result when we voted on the bill on Jan. 31,” Blount wrote on Facebook post. “I am opposed to discrimination of any kind, including discrimination based on sexual orientation. Obviously, I should have (all of us should have) been aware of this.”

© 2014, Associated Press, All Rights Reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Share this article with your friends and followers:

Archives: , , , ,

Filed under: Mississippi

27 more reader comments:

  1. Confused Really you think, it’s Mississippi after all you know!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 9:58pm
  2. if you are confused about whether or not your law is going to be criticized because of how bad it is compared to another states exact same law you probably should A. Not write it B. Not put it into effect in your state. C. DUH!!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 9:59pm
  3. Confused? Um does it give people the right to discriminate? Then it’s the same.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 9:59pm
  4. If you really have to think about it, it probably is. Good God.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 9:59pm
  5. Bs

    Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 10:00pm
  6. Hooyah TX!!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 10:00pm
  7. Wow!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 10:00pm
  8. This is why the US is not signed up to the UN Charter of Human Rights, because of nut jobs like this. The hypocrisy of local government is astonishing.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 10:00pm
  9. Miss. confused? duh

    Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 10:01pm
  10. “I haven’t carefully read it” but you were willing to bring it and pass it?!?

    Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 10:01pm
  11. scary thing is those that vote for these screwballs r dumber than the politicians ;

    Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 10:03pm
  12. Wtf?? Lol ‘Merica…

    Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 10:04pm
  13. Arizona lawmakers can’t help it, they where just born this way……

    Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 10:05pm
  14. Oh, they may be confused, but not about their bill they’re pushing. They’re confused about how to get out of a situation that makes them look like the fools that they are.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 10:05pm
  15. What could possibly be the additional review? These people just get more and more outrageous.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 10:05pm
  16. If you have to ask then why yes it is as discriminating as AZ

    Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 10:06pm
  17. Voting on something u didn’t read… ok… way to go mississippi backwoods idgits

    Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 10:07pm
  18. Maybe u can’t read… at least those big words that prolly don’t mean nuthin anyways… DER…DUH…DER..!!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 10:09pm
  19. This is Mississippi after all!! Not proud to say this is my home state! Not holding my breath!!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 10:11pm
  20. When your “religious rights” infringe on my civil and constitutional rights then, YES, WE HAVE A PROBLEM!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 10:11pm
  21. So how about the snake handlers of Ky, Tn and Wv? Is that religious freedom or just animal cruelty? Not to mention mental insanity…

    Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 10:11pm
  22. So it’s what…a competition now? “We’re confused because we don’t know if our “Religious Oppression” bill is more or less anti-gay than another state’s religious oppression bill … because we want to appear anti-gay but not as anti-gay as somebody else because we don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. Idiots.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 10:16pm
  23. Sounds like Miss. to me !

    Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 10:22pm
  24. If you are confused – it is anti-gay and everyone else!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 10:24pm
  25. Confused? Here is a suggestion, obtain a dictionary and a thesaurus and get a clue! But let me save you the trouble – just don’t pass this hate bill.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 10:25pm
  26. lol, you’d think this would be enough reason to pull the bill.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 10:28pm
  27. Seems like some states are going backwards instead of forwards.. Religion and human rights shouldn’t even be in the same bill. Get with the program people and stop looking so small minded…

    Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 10:36pm