Mississippi Is Burning with Intolerance

Mississippi is joining the growing cabal of Southern theocracies pushing hateful legislation that is anti-LGBT in nature and misogynist as well. Under the guise of religious liberty, the Mississippi state house passed the final version of a bill that enshrines discrimination against practically anything a business owner of "faith" deems offensive, whether it is consensual sex outside of marriage or a woman not wearing makeup.

The legislation allows discrimination against those who may offend a business owner's morals or sensibilities. Section two of the bill states:

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 time of birth.

According to an article in Salon magazine by Amanda Marcotte:

"The bill then goes on to offer two levels of protection for bigots who want to discriminate, with religious organizations getting broad rights and private persons and business owners getting somewhat less expansive, but still terrifying rights. Religious organizations are allowed to deny employment, housing, and other services. Private businesses are allowed to deny any marriage-related services (including jewelry selling) to anyone who meets the three criteria. State employees can refuse marriage licenses, as well, and they are offered special protections to "express" the above religious beliefs."

"To be clear, being able to discriminate against gay people, transgender people and fornicators is already legal, to one extent or another, in Mississippi. What this law does is deny the state the right to "discriminate" against anyone who would do so. That might seem minor, but in reality, removing any threat of losing government money or contracts for forcing your bigoted religious beliefs on others is actually a pretty strong check on a lot of this behavior."

Imagine a state shocked full of Kim Davis', the hateful Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples, and this time the law protects her. What good is a "right" if it can not be exercised? How easy was it for blacks to travel through the South in the 1950's when they were not permitted to rent a motel room or for same sex couples today?

But to Southern evangelicals religion and intolerance seems to be synonymous with one another. After all, it was just over a decade ago when Karl Rove engineered anti-gay marriage amendments in eleven states to help George W. Bush win reelection in 2004. Since conservatives can not legislate morality, they can certainly seek to humiliate those who have sex for reasons other than procreation. Let's face it, ever since Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court case which declared same-sex marriage legal in all fifty states, conservatives have been in a tizzy!

The result is bills like this one, which certainly has ramifications in the real world. Foster parents can force kids into "conversion therapy" to pray away the gay so to speak, a practice which the American Medication Association defines as total quackery. Any religious organization, such as a day care, a homeless shelter, or a food bank can turn away a mother and her children if she is seen as promiscuous. Adoption agencies can practice discrimination based on sexual orientation or even the insidious sin of sex before marriage. Hospitals can decline to treat transgendered individuals for medical treatments related to their transition or decline to provide fertility services for women labelled as immoral.

According to Salon, the language of the bill allows businesses and institutions broad leeway to discriminate. "The state government shall not take any discriminatory action against a person wholly or partially on the basis that the person establishes sex-specific standards or policies concerning employee or student dress or grooming." So again, employers can say women must wear skirts to work and schools can say that a male student's hair cannot be too long. The bill is a codification of the sex and gender norms more associated with the 1950's than today. Mississippi's conservative lawmakers must have watched too many episodes of Mad Men.

Again according to Salon: "This bill violates some pretty important federal regulations and could lead to the federal government stripping the state of education funding." Hopefully, this consequence will lead to the bill being vetoed by Republican Governor Phil Bryant. However, perhaps sanity will not prevail and the GOP will continue to use state's rights arguments and "religious liberty" as a license to discriminate. What is it about modernity that the GOP frowns upon?