The Mississippi Senate approved a highly debated religious freedom bill [official document] by a 31-17 vote on Wednesday. The Senate made slight revisions to the bill after it was passed by the House, requiring the House to give final approval before it is sent to Governor Phil Bryant [official website]. The bill prohibits the government from taking action against religious organizations that decline employment, housing or services to same-sex couples, families who have adopted a foster child and are not in a traditional marriage, and individuals who offer wedding services and refuse to accept same-sex partners. Those opposing the bill believe it is too broad and will sanction religious discrimination.
The intersection of religious liberty and sexual orientation and gender identity has been a controversial issue in the US. Earlier this week Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed [JURIST report] a similar religious freedom bill. Also this week Georgia Governor Nathan Deal said that he would veto a religious freedom bill [HB 757, text]. The bill was given final legislative approval [JURIST report] earlier this month and awaited the governor’s signature. The governor expressed concern [JURIST report] that the bill “contained language that could give rise to state-sanctioned discrimination.” Last week North Carolina’s governor signed a bill [JURIST report] that prevents local governments from enacting their own nondiscrimination ordinances. The law also requires public school students to use the school bathroom or locker room that corresponds to their sex at birth. Also this month the Kentucky Senate approved a bill [JURIST report] allowing businesses to refuse service to homosexuals based upon their religious beliefs. Earlier in March South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard vetoed a bill [JURIST report] that would have required public school students to use the bathroom or locker room corresponding to their sex at birth.