The Freedom to Discriminate
Senate Bill 2681 is law.
Governor Phil Bryant has signed into law the so-called Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Businesses wishing to discriminate against any person under state law could use “religious exercise” as a defense to justify their actions.
Federal and state laws do not let business owners with religious objections to “mixing the races” refuse service on religious grounds. We do not let business owners with traditional views of sex roles refuse to sell certain products to women ornot hire married women for full-time jobs on religious grounds.Yet the way this bill is written could open the doors to many other types of discrimination.
Federal law prevents the race and sex discrimination that this bill would allow under state law, but those the federal law does not protect could be hurt. Business owners who oppose gay rights could refuse service to gay and lesbian individuals on religious grounds.
That, in turn, could affect Mississippi’s economy. Toyota and Nissan – both with manufacturing plants here in Mississippi – are celebrated as LGBT friendly work zones. But these plants would be in a state unfriendly to the LGBT community. Whilecompanies like Toyota and Nissan, among others, may drive the best possible talent into Mississippi, our state laws could end up repelling them away. If this state is trying to be the best it can, why would it push away experienced, hardworking Americansfrom accepting job offers here?
The Jim Crow laws ended in 1965. I was born 11 years later. I never witnessed those horrible years. I don’t want to see any shadow of the Jim Crow era, but this bill could turn back the clock. Arizona stopped it from happening when Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a similar bill in her state. I was praying for the same here; however, Mississippi just doesn't have the will to do what is right. Mississippi is burning again.
The worst outcome has occurred - Governor Bryant has signed the discriminatory bill into law. Yes, we can hope the Mississippi court system will recognize the importance of enforcing protection from discrimination, but we can act locally. We must ask our counties and cities to pass non-discrimination ordinances so our friends of all races, colors, creeds and orientations can find oases from prejudice in the great state of Mississippi.
State Sen. Derrick Simmons
Posted April 4, 2014 - 8:04 am