The Mississippi House of Representatives approved House Bill 1523, which is known as the Religious Liberty Accommodations Act, by an 80-39 vote margin.
The measure would allow officials not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because their religious beliefs. HB 1523 also applies to those who decline to “participate in the provision of treatments, counseling or surgeries related to sex reassignment or gender identity transitioning…based upon a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.”
HB 1523 would also apply to businesses, foster care agencies, employers and landlords.
“Laws and government actions that protect the free exercise of religious beliefs and moral convictions about marriage and human sexuality will encourage private citizens and institutions to demonstrate tolerance for those beliefs and convictions and therefore contribute to a more respectful, diverse and peaceful society,” reads the measure. “In a pluralistic society, in which people of good faith hold more than one view of marriage, it is possible for the government to recognize same-sex marriage without forcing persons with sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions to conform.”
HB 1523 defines the “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions” that it would protect as “marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman” and “sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”
“Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth,” reads the measure.
Critics of HB 1523 also contend it would allow government agencies to sponsor so-called conversion therapy.
“Once again, legislators are modernizing the Jim Crow Era with the passage of HB 1523,” said the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi in a statement.
“When we seek to codify legislation that discriminates against any class of people — no matter our diverse theological beliefs about marriage — we tarnish the treasure of religious freedom and the highest ideals of our democracy,” it adds.
HB 1523 will now go before the Mississippi Senate.
Ga. lawmakers ‘making a grave error’
The Georgia Senate on Friday approved House Bill 757 by a 38-14 vote margin.
The measure would allow publicly-funded organizations and individuals to deny service to anyone based on their religious beliefs.
“Georgia lawmakers supporting this legislation are making a grave error that damages their state’s brand,” said Freedom for All Americans Executive Director Matt McTighe in a statement. “Today’s Senate vote is noticeably out of step with the overwhelming majority of Georgians who disagree with this type of discriminatory legislation.”
Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Beth Littrell in a statement urged the Georgia House of Representatives to oppose HB 757.
“Freedom of religion does not give any of us the right to harm others,” she said.
The Virginia House of Delegates earlier this week approved a “Kim Davis” religious freedom bill. A bill that would protect pastors who refuse to officiate same-sex marriages is currently before the Florida Senate.