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The Religious Freedom Bill: What the Human Rights Campaign Says to Lawmakers

PHOTO: Human Rights Campaign, Mississippi

JACKSON, Miss.–You’ve heard recently about the resolutions passed in Starkville, Hattiesburg, and just this week in Oxford, recognizing people in the LGBT community. Now the same group that has been urging those resolutions is lobbying the Miss. legislature to specifically ensure the rights of gay and lesbian people.

“To ensure LGBT people are not targeted for discrimination, we call on legislators to adopt language that explicitly preserves civil rights protections in any effort to protect religious freedom,” said HRC State Legislative Director Sarah Warbelow in a news release Wednesday.

“We encourage lawmakers in other states considering this type of legislation to heed the concerns of businesses, fair-minded religious leaders and civil rights advocates in order to ensure that no group of people is marked for second-class treatment.”

The state legislature has worked to reword the bill, which also puts “In God We Trust” on the state seal. When first drafted, the bill contained wording very similar to a bill in Arizona that was vetoed by their governor. That bill gave businesses the right to refuse to serve people, based on the religious beliefs of the proprietor.

Some of Mississippi’s legislators, like Rep. Greg Snowden, have assured Mississippians that the legislature would not pass a bill that resembled the one in Arizona.

Earlier this week, a group of pastors from Starkville, Hattiesburg and the Jackson metro, sent a letter to the legislature encouraging them to abandon the legislation. This is a link to a related article that contains the text of that latter: /recognizing-lgbt-residents-next-city-list-oxford/

The pastors were both Methodist and Baptist. The Human Rights Campaign handled the publicity.

The HRC states on their website that their purpose “strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all”.

Jennifer Ray Collins, head of Mississippi’s ACLU branch, said in Wednesday’s news release that she believes the nature of the bill is discriminatory.

“The Constitution protects not only the right to believe (or not to believe), but also the right to express and to manifest religious beliefs. We have the absolute right to believe whatever we want about God, faith, and religion, and we have the right to act on our beliefs, unless those actions harm others.  This bill does not go far enough to protect individuals or businesses.  It is a broad license to discriminate.”

The HRC is promoting a petition, signed by Miss. native, singer Lance Bass. LINK: http://www.hrc.org/blog/entry/lance-bass-joins-hrc-in-speaking-out-against-anti-gay-mississippi-bill

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