JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – A religious liberty bill passed tonight in the senate.
It was the last bill on the agenda and heavily contested.
House Bill 1523, the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act passed 31 to 17.
But not before lots of discussion and disagreement over whether or not it discriminates against certain people.
“This legislation was requested by a number of ministers, foster care agencies, adoption agencies and a host of individuals from across the state.”
According to supporters, House Bill 1523, the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act gives faith-based organizations the freedom to handle certain situations as they choose based on their Christian beliefs.
Others say it’s discrimination against same-sex couples.
A group of advocates met on the capitol steps yesterday to rally against the bill.
The Human Rights Campaign issued a statement after the bill passed that reads in part the following:
This horrific legislation would allow individuals, religious organizations and private associations to use religion to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Mississippians in some of the most important aspect of their lives.
“And if this bill passes it basically says that I as a shop owner can turn you down based on my religious beliefs or I don’t believe in gay marriage, is that correct?” said Senator John Horhn, (D) District 26.
“This bill allows a business owner to refuse wedding related goods and services in furtherance of a same-sex marriage,” Senator Jenifer Branning, (R) District 18.
“Their organizations are in jeopardy without this law,” said Senator Angela Burks Hill, (R) District 40.
The bill also addresses circuit clerks who don’t want to give wedding licenses to same-sex couples.
In that case, the circuit clerks could hand over the duties to a deputy clerk, to “not to inconvenience the public.”
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said in a statement
This bill simply protects those individuals from government interference when practicing their religious beliefs.
While the ACLU of Mississippi has said they are deeply disturbed and that …
This bill allows freedom of religion to cover prejudice and to justify discrimination.
The bill goes back to the house now where another vote will be taken.
If it passes, it goes to Governor Phil Bryant’s desk.