Mississippi House Bill 1523: you be the judge

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Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

I would have posted this sooner, but I’ve been sort of busy. In fact, I just finished reading Mississippi House Bill 1523 — all 16 pages of it.

For those of you who haven’t heard about it, the bill is also known as the “Religious Liberty Accommodations Act.” Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant just gave it his stamp of approval, meaning the new law will take effect this summer.

As written, the law both prohibits discrimination against people with deeply held religious beliefs and moral convictions and allows them to discriminate against other groups based on those same beliefs and convictions.

As you can imagine, the ACLU, the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD have had plenty to say about the issue. You can read their take on it here.

In black and white

Of course, their comments are based solely on their interpretation of the law. For those of you who want to form your own conclusions, I’ve included some relevant text from a copy of the bill reviewed by state legislators below.

In pertinent part, it says:

  • “Laws and government actions that protect the free exercise of religious beliefs and moral convictions about marriage and human sexuality will encourage private citizens and institutions to demonstrate tolerance for those beliefs and convictions and therefore contribute to a more respectful, diverse and peaceful society…”
  • “…it is possible for the government to recognize same-sex marriage without forcing persons with sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions to conform.”
  • “The sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions protected by this act are the belief or conviction that: (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 birth.”

But wait, there’s more…

The law bars the state government from taking action against anyone who, on the basis of their moral convictions or religious beliefs:

  • Refuses to perform surgery or provide any other treatment commonly administered to aid in a transgender individual’s transition.
  • Creates policy addressing a number of issues including but not limited to access to bathrooms, locker rooms and similar facilities.
  • Refuses to provide services associated with the celebration of certain marriages.

It also prohibits the state from punishing religious organizations or members of such organizations who, on the basis of strictly held religious or moral beliefs refuse to:

  • Preside at or authorize certain marriages.
  • Allow marriages to be held on their property.
  • Provide services for certain marriages.

Finally, the law allows state employees who are authorized to issue marriage licenses to request permission to recuse themselves in instances contradictory to their religious beliefs or moral convictions. The same stipulation applies to state employees who are authorized to perform marriage ceremonies.

Think about it

Clearly this is a highly controversial and emotionally charged issue. Those of you who know me personally or who have been following this blog for any length of time know that I have strong feelings about it. After all, laws like this directly affect someone who I once loved and will always care for.

But the bottom line is that when it comes to issues like this, there are always two sides to every story. And there are never any easy answers. So I will leave it at that. For now.

 

 

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