Mississippi’s HB 1523 Goes into Effect, Nation’s Most Sweeping Anti-LGBT Law
HB 1523, the nation’s most sweeping anti-LGBT law, has gone into effect across Mississippi. This law is part of a wave of so-called religious exemption laws that are a backlash to the legalization of marriage equality. But even among its peers, HB 1523 stands out as extreme.
HB 1523 allows public employees, service providers and business owners to cite personal religious beliefs to justify discriminating against LGBT people. Mississippi officials and service providers, such as doctors and store owners, may recuse themselves from serving LGBT individuals on the basis of three specific religious beliefs about gay marriage, transgender individuals, and sex before marriage. HB 1523 enumerates three specific religious beliefs that will be protected above all others: First, marriage can only be between a man and a woman; second, sexual relations are “properly confined” to such a marriage; and third, sex is an innate characteristic that is assigned at birth and cannot change.
People who experience discrimination are encouraged to report it to CSE by calling our hotline (828.242.1559), by email ([email protected]) or by posting at our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/southernequality.
“I am so terribly sorry that this unconstitutional and hateful law has to go into effect, even for one day or hour. Nevertheless, we remain determined to make sure that HB 1523 remains in effect for as short a time period as possible and is soon relegated to where it belongs – the dustbin of history,” says Roberta Kaplan, lead counsel for the plaintiffs in Campaign for Southern Equality v. Bryant III, which struck down the law at the district court level.
“The insidious power of a law like this is that it casts a long shadow over public life, forcing someone to assess whether they will be treated fairly and respectfully in situations from the crisis of an emergency room to an anniversary dinner at a restaurant to a child’s classroom. Now we face the cruel reality of the law going into effect and the imminent threat it poses to the dignity, health and well-being of LGBT Mississippians.,” says Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Executive Director of the Campaign for Southern Equality (CSE).
Mississippi is home to 60,000 LGBT adults and an estimated 11,400 transgender youth and adults, according to 2016 data published by the Williams Institute at the U.C.L.A. School of Law. The state is also home to 3,500 same-sex couples, 29 percent of whom are raising children—the highest rate in the nation.