Mississippi Scraps Discriminatory ‘Religious Freedom’ Provisions Following Backlash In Arizona

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The problems may not have been addressed by the amendment. See this update.

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On January 31, the Mississippi Senate unanimously passed SB 2681, a bill that adds “In God We Trust” to the state seal. It also contained language just like that in Arizona’s freshly-vetoed bill that would allow people to use religious beliefs as a defense in civil cases — thereby instituting the same “license to discriminate” that prompted a national backlash in Arizona. The bill passed under the radar, without any discussion about whether it was anti-LGBT, but thanks to pressure from the ACLU, the bill is receiving a significant rewrite.

Late Wednesday night, the Mississippi House Civil Subcommittee voted to strike all of the problematic language that would have protected discrimination. Instead, the bill will resemble the Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRA) that 18 other states have. These laws, along with their federal counterpart, help protect individuals’ religious practices from government intrusion without allowing them to be imposed on others.

Mississippi is only the latest state to scrap, stall, or defeat a “license to discriminate” measure disguised as “religious liberty.” In addition to the veto in Arizona, bills were defeated this week in Ohio, Indiana, and Georgia and last week in Kansas, Maine, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Idaho. Missouri is currently the only state where such a bill is still on the table.