The state Senate passed House Bill 1523, the so-called Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, Wednesday by a vote of 32-17, The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson reports. Thursday morning the Senate took a second vote, sending the bill on to the House for concurrence, as the version passed by the Senate differs slightly from the one adopted by the House in February, reports BuzzFeed. If the House votes to concur, which is expected next week, the bill will go to Gov. Phil Bryant for his signature.
The act states that the government cannot penalize an individual, organization, or business for acting according to the following “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions”: that “marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman”; that “sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage”; and that “male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.”
The bill would therefore allow businesses to turn away customers or prospective employees by citing such beliefs, without repercussions. It would allow employees of county circuit clerks’ offices, which issue marriage licenses in the state, to refuse service to same-sex couples if they object to the marriage on religious grounds, also without repercussions. It could be used to discriminate against single parents and even conceivably allow employers to fire female workers for wearing pants, as it protects employers’ and schools’ right to maintain “sex-specific standards or policies concerning employee or student dress or grooming.”
Sen. Jenifer Branning, a supporter of the bill, argued to her colleagues Wednesday that the measure was designed to protect providers of wedding goods and services who oppose same-sex marriage, and denied that it had broader implications.
There’s more on this monstrosity of a legislation at Buzzfeed.