Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed a so-called religious freedom bill Tuesday, according to a statement from his Twitter account.
The Mississippi House of Representatives voted 68-44 to send HB 1523, also known as the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” to Governor Phil Bryant’s desk for consideration. This bill is similar to bills recently proposed in several other states in that it seeks to protect those with “sincerely held religious beliefs” from facing “discriminatory action” from the government. The bill specifies three “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions” as protected under this act, which are “(a) Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman; (b) Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage; and (c) Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.” According to Senator Jenifer Branning, who presented the bill to the Senate, “This is presenting a solution to the crossroads we find ourselves in today as a result of Obergefell v. Hodges… Ministers, florists, photographers, people along those lines – this bill would allow them to refuse to provide marriage-related business services without fear of government discrimination.” Opponents of the bill, such as Erik Flemming of the Mississippi ACLU, claim the bill is “very broad and very dangerous.” According to Fleming, “It is reminiscent of what happened 50 or 60 years ago in this same state… People say that it is just religious, but there were people who had a religious belief that black and white people should be segregated, and you’re opening that Pandora’s box again.”