An email from Austin Nimocks, senior counsel with the alliance, suggested an executive order to Drew Snyder, Bryant’s policy director and counsel, 10 days before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in Mississippi and nationwide.
“The main document is a model executive order that would prevent state governments from discriminating against their citizens because of their views about or actions concerning marriage,” Nimocks wrote, including a sample news release.
Much of the language from that proposal appears in HB 1523, including a section that seeks to protect actions motivated by three beliefs: that marriage is only between a man and a woman; that sex should only take place in such a marriage; and that a person’s gender is determined at birth and cannot be altered.
Outside groups often draft laws in Mississippi. University of Chicago researchers recently found that Mississippi lawmakers introduced more model bills from the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council than legislators in any other state. Mississippi lawmakers also introduced the third-highest number of bills from the more liberal-leaning State Innovation Exchange.
Kaplan’s filing also cites correspondence from the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, which helped organize churches and other groups that supported HB 1523 in advance of the 2016 legislative session. The center also issued a poll showing support for the measure and suggested talking points that Bryant and other supporters cited.
The center’s president, Forest Thigpen, said again Friday that his group conveyed the suggested language to legislative leaders.
“We work with national organizations on a regular basis, and we knew there was a model bill that had been developed,” Thigpen said, saying it’s common for his group to be a “resource for legislators.”
Thigpen said it’s “ridiculous” to allege that a religious motivation is somehow invalid in drafting legislation.
Kellie Feidorek, a lawyer with the alliance who helped write the signing statement and offered public relations advice to Bryant, said the plaintiffs should not be able to exclude people whose views aren’t in “lockstep” with theirs from influencing policy.
“That is a chilling proposal for the diversity we cherish in public life,” she said Friday.
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