Nel's New Day

April 6, 2016

Mississippi Wins Most Hateful Contest

If the states had a contest to see which one could pass the most hateful and broadly discriminatory law, Mississippi would be the winner—at least for now. Mississippi is the “South of the South,” according a friend familiar with “the South.” To keep their pride—and poverty— the state legislature has passed, and Gov. Phil Bryant has signed, a law that may be the model for the conservative extremists in other red states. Legislators started with right-wing reaction to giving marriage rights to same-gender couples and then accelerated with the thought of transgender people using the bathroom that matches their gender identity—and their appearance. The claim is protecting “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions,” but its purpose is to allow discrimination against most people to run amok. It allows employers to use not only bathroom and locker access policies but also dress code and grooming.

Bryant claims that “this bill does not limit any constitutionally protected rights or actions of any citizens of this state under federal or state laws” and “is designed in the most targeted manner possible to prevent government interference in the lives of the people.” It actually doesn’t limit the rights of any Christians who profess religious liberty, but everyone else has lost their rights.

The law has the standard stuff about permitting people to be turned away from businesses, refused marriage licenses, denied housing, and turned down for essential services and care. On July 1, 2016, the law grants this “religious freedom” not only to the organizations that IRS grants freedom because of religion but also any private sector or government entity that wants to decline goods and services to anyone who they find objectionable.

In addition to LGBT and human rights groups, the Mississippi Economic Council has come out against the law for fear that it will negatively impact both customers and employees of businesses. The Mississippi Manufacturers Association also opposes the law because of the negative impact on business and industry in Mississippi. The law violates corporate policies, keeping b businesses from staying in or moving to the state. Nissan, Toyota, and IBM have all expressed concern about the new law.

Mississippi isn’t alone in a hate bill based on protecting religion: almost three dozen states introduced almost 200 anti-LGBT bills in their legislatures this year. Most states have failed, including South Dakota and Georgia where the governors vetoed these bills. North Carolina succeeded before Mississippi, and it will be a litmus test on how hate legislation affects the state’s economy. PayPal has already abandoned plans to expand into Charlotte (NC). Both Kansas and Missouri have new “religious freedom” bills.

New York, Vermont, and Washington have already banned  ban state-financed travel to Mississippi. As in North Carolina, federal agencies are reviewing the possibility of pulling funding because of the law.

The law makes any sex outside marriage illegal. According to the Washington Post,it prevents the government from ‘discriminating’ (through taxes, fines, withholding benefits, or other forms of retaliation) against a ‘person’ (broadly defined as an individual, religious organization, association, corporation and other kinds of businesses) for acting on their religious convictions regarding sexuality and marriage. That includes employers, landlords and rental companies, adoption and foster care agencies, people and companies that provide marriage-related services (rental halls, photographers, florists, etc.).”

All state employees can openly express their beliefs without consequence because the law states that no one can be sued for discrimination.Doctors using the religious conviction excuse are protected if they refuse to provide counseling, sex-reassignment surgery, fertility treatments, and other services. Counselors, even those paid by taxpayers, can refuse to serve people. Foster and adoptive families may religiously “guide, raise or instruct” children anyway that they want, including forcing children into “conversion therapy.”

People can decide “whether or not to hire, terminate or discipline an individual whose conduct or religious beliefs are inconsistent” with their beliefs or moral convictions as well as decide to whom they will sell or rent housing they control based on their religious beliefs or moral convictions. Any person  or school can establish “sex-specific standards or policies concerning employee or student dress or grooming,” and can manage the access of restrooms and other sex-segregated facilities.

Protect Thy Neighbor, a project of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, listed some hypotheticals of the law’s results beyond the LGBT community:

  • An adoption agency could refuse to place a child with a family if the parents lived together before they were married.
  • A counselor could refuse to help a teen who called a suicide hotline.
  • A car rental agency could refuse to rent a car to a single unmarried mother.
  • A corporation could fire a woman for wearing slacks.

All people who use religion as a reason to discriminate are protected from tax penalties, loss of contracts or grants, or loss of other benefits such as licenses or certification. And on and on! Citing religious beliefs for discrimination not only gives people victory in court but also compensatory damages. The law also voids any anti-discrimination laws in cities or counties.

Five years ago, 46 percent of Mississippians wanted to outright ban interracial marriages, and now a Mississippi landlord is able to refuse rental to a married interracial couple, a Hispanic/Native American woman and a black man. The man is a member of the National Guard. The law legalizes this egregious act.

Although anyone can be blocked from being served by both private companies and government agencies, the Mississippi legislature does have concern about safety in church. The state senate passed the “Mississippi Church Protection Act” allowing concealed carry in churches without a permit and provides immunity from civil and criminal penalties for any designated “sergeant at arms” who has supposedly undergone training. The bill also includes a provision allowing people to concealed carry without a permit. If it passes, Mississippi would be the ninth state to have this law. The Mississippi Association of Chiefs of Police strongly opposes the bill, but they have no say about the lack of concealed carry permits.

Bryant said that Mississippi law is all about giving freedom to people, but he must not consider women to be people. Women who want to have an abortion in the one remaining women’s clinic in the state must have state-directed counseling in person to discourage her from the procedure and then wait another 24 hours–meaning two different trips to the clinic. A woman must undergo an ultrasound and be offered the option of seeing the image.

Health plans under the Affordable Care Act can cover abortion only in cases when the woman’s life is endangered, rape or incest. Insurance policies for public employees cover abortion only in cases of life endangerment, rape, incest, or fetal abnormality. Telemedicine with medication abortion is prohibited. Abortions are performed after 18 weeks only if the woman’s life is endangered, her physical health is severely compromised or there is a severe fetal impairment because state legislators believe that a fetus can feel pain after that time.

Thus Mississippi protects Christians—except for women who need abortions—and no one else. My question is when two different people’s Christian beliefs conflict? Which one will have the rights?

Jesus-Facepalm

In an effort to interpret “what would Jesus think,” the anti-discrimination organization Planting Peace has put up this billboard a few blocks away from the state capitol.

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2 Comments »

  1. Reblogged this on Civil Rights Advocacy and commented:
    Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina. Now it’s Mississippi spreading their bigotry. Maybe we should suggest that the ‘ol Miss start using this video ad (http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/ca31c914a7/mississippi-anti-gay-tourism-video?_cc=__d___&_ccid=ced32098-d3f2-4eae-ad23-034934a9ffa0)to clearly state who they want to visit the state.
    Sigh!

    Like

    Comment by civilrightsactivist — April 7, 2016 @ 11:22 AM | Reply

  2. The states have definitely been competing with each other in the backlash against marriage equality and expanded LGBT rights. It’s very sad to see–hope it’s only temporary.

    Like

    Comment by eurobrat — April 6, 2016 @ 8:24 PM | Reply


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