An unfortunate trend is developing. Last year, Indiana passed a “religious freedom” law that many widely perceived as allowing business owners to refuse service to LGBT people. Then North Carolina passed a law overriding city ordinances that banned LGBT discrimination and didn’t allow transgender people to use the public restroom of their choice. Now, Mississippi has hopped on the bandwagon. On Tuesday, Governor Phil Bryant signed a bill allowing businesses and the government to deny service to gay couples.
Time has a detailed breakdown from Princeton professor and Mississippi native Eddie S. Glaude Jr. on what to expect from the law, which allows for a refusal of service based on “sincerely held religious beliefs,” which could even mean denying marriage licenses (think Kim Davis).
The scope and breadth of the proposed law give license to discriminate in the name of religion without fear of legal sanction. Fall outside the bounds of what some believe to be traditional marriage between a man and woman, get divorced, or have premarital sex, extramarital sex, sex with more than one partner at a time, and you could easily be denied a job, fired or refused service at your local convenience store. As Mississippi Representative Christopher Bell, a Democrat from Jackson, said: “It’s an open container for discrimination across the board.”
Glaude also mentions Mississippi’s history of slavery, lynchings, segregation, and in 1964, that the state legislature passed a number of “anti-civil rights” laws, during the national civil rights movement. In a state with such a brutal history of discrimination and violence, this “religious freedom” law, signed in 2016, could continue that sad legacy.