The Mississippi House and Senate have approved a bill that would allow businesses to discriminate for religious reasons.
The bill advanced by the state legislature is similar in nature to the bill passed by the Arizona legislature which Governor Jan Brewer eventually vetoed.
“Religious liberty” bills like the one vetoed in Arizona differ from other states’ “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts” (RFRAs) because they extend religious protections to businesses. Mississippi’s bill has this same problem, because state law already defines a “person” to include “all public and private corporations.” Thus, if Bryant were to sign Mississippi’s bill into law, it would grant all businesses in the state a license to discriminate based on religious grounds.
Furthermore, the bill would allow businesses to discriminate for religious reasons even if laws are passed at the local level to bar discrimination.
To say that allowing businesses to invoke religious beliefs is a slippery slope is an understatement, and if Hobby Lobby wins their case currently before the Supreme Court we will likely see more “religious liberty” bills pop up.
While Governor Jan Brewer did veto the Arizona bill, it came to light that her office helped craft it. It remains to be seen if Governor Phil Bryant (R) will veto the Mississippi bill.
Mississippi does not currently have any protections for LGBT persons on the books.