In a 69-45 vote, Mississippi's House passes a Senate version of a controversial bill
Bill: People can't be punished for making decisions based on "sincerely held religious belief"
Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican, possibly could sign the bill next week
Mississippi’s Legislature became the latest to pass a so-called religious freedom bill, once again putting a Republican governor on the spot to either side with social conservatives or those who think such legislation amounts to discrimination.
The state’s House of Representatives approved a Senate version of the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act.
State Rep. Jay Hughes, a Democrat, said he plans a last-ditch move to stop the House Bill 1523, but given the bill’s support so far, it probably will go next week to Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican, to sign or veto.
Among other things, the legislation would allow businesses and religious groups to deny the LGBT community certain services such as counseling, wedding planning and adoption support. It would also protect those groups from punishment if they act “consistent with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.”
As Bryant weighs what to do next, he can reflect on the actions and reactions of other Republican governors who have in recent weeks weighed similarly controversial bills pushed by social conservatives and opposed by LGBT advocates.
North Carolina: ‘Bathroom bill’ signing stirs uproar
There was no formal signing ceremony, no cameras. Rather, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory quietly put pen to paper on March 23 on House Bill 2, or the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act.
Then, the uproar began.
McCrory tweeted Wednesday night that he believed the legislation – which blocks cities from allowing transgender individuals to use public bathrooms for the sex they identify as, as well as more broadly restricting cities from passing nondiscrimination laws – was needed. He pointed to a measure passed by the city of Charlotte that gave transgender people the OK to use the bathroom of their choice, among other things.
“Ordinance defied common sense, allowing men to use women’s bathroom/locker room for instance,” the governor tweeted.
Some thought McCrory’s actions were out of line. The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina and Equality North Carolina sued in federal court to try to get the state law declared unconstitutional and to be a violation of federal laws banning sex discrimination.
A number of big corporate names rooted in North Carolina – including PayPal, Bank of America and Dow Chemical – have denounced the law. It also has been floated that the NBA could move next season’s All-Star game from Charlotte because of the bill.
Georgia: A Republican governor cites faith, vetoes bill
For all the businesses now leaning on McCrory, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal may have had even more.
Twenty companies in the Fortune 500 – an annual ranking of the most profitable U.S. businesses – are headquartered in the Peach State, while 440 of those same companies have a presence there. And top representatives from many of them, from Delta CEO Ed Bastian to Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank (a co-founder of Home Depot), spoke against the bill.
Yet Deal said his resistance to the legislation stemmed not from any public pressure but his own Christian faith.
Noting he’s Baptist, the Republican governor said that, “We do not have a belief, in my way of looking at religion, that says that we have to discriminate against anybody.”
“I think what the New Testament teaches us,” Deal added, “is that Jesus reached out to those who were considered outcasts.”
He elaborated on March 28 that he had vetoed HB 757 because he didn’t think it was necessary.
“I do not think we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia, of which I and my family have been a part of for all of our lives,” Deal said.
His decision, he said, was “about the character of our state and the character of our people. Georgia is a welcoming state. It is full of loving, kind and generous people.