Mississippi religious freedom bill headed to final negotiations

Mississippi lawmakers could try to write a final version of a religious-practices bill that has sparked concerns about anti-gay discrimination.

The Senate on Thursday voted to send Senate Bill 2681 into negotiations with the House.

The two sides face a Monday deadline to file a final version of the bill, known as the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act. If they don’t meet that deadline, the bill will die. If they do reach a compromise, it would be sent to both chambers for a vote by the middle of next week.

The original version passed the Senate 48-0 on Jan. 31. It said government cannot put a substantial burden on religious practice without a compelling reason. The Senate debate that day focused primarily on a provision Republican Gov. Phil Bryant had requested, to add “In God We Trust” to the state seal.

There was nothing said during that debate about the bill’s similarities to an Arizona proposal that, at the time, was being broadly criticized as a way to let people cite religious beliefs in refusing service to gay people, such as not baking a cake for a wedding or commitment ceremony. Arizona’s Republican governor, Jan Brewer, eventually vetoed that bill after business groups said it could hurt the state’s economy.

Gulflive
3/27/14