BREAKING: Mississippi's anti-LGBT HB 1523 becomes law, signed by governor

Today, Governor Phil Bryant signed into law HB 1523, a "license to discriminate bill" also known as the Religious Accommodations Act. In late March, the bill passed with overwhelming support in the state House and Senate, despite being widely opposed by vocal advocates at home and across the country.

Sarah Kate Ellis, President & CEO of GLAAD, responded in a statement:

"Governor Bryant has put the people and the economy of Mississippi at risk and damaged his state's reputation by signing this regressive anti-LGBT bill into law. If Gov. Bryant listened to the stories of Mississippians fired from jobs, refused service, and shunned from their families, then perhaps he might have a sense of why bills like HB 1523 devastate LGBT people and their families. But Gov. Bryant's attack on fairness will not deter us; the LGBT community will not stop demanding equality and full acceptance until everyone in Mississippi can live the life they love."

As part of an earlier petition urging Governor Bryant to veto the bill, the ACLU stated:

If this becomes law, single mothers, same-sex couples and their families, transgender people, and vulnerable youth will face hateful discrimination. They could be turned away from social services like homeless shelters, denied medical care, or be fired from their jobs.

This bill allows individuals, businesses and religiously-affiliated organizations (including hospitals, schools, emergency services, and more) to discriminate on the basis of religious beliefs or moral convictions. This means discrimination regarding marriage for same-sex couples, sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage, and the very existence of transgender people.

While other state legislatures have advanced attacks on LGBT people this session, no state in the country has passed a law like this.

In a recent article, Mother Jones said of the bill:

The Mississippi bill is so sweeping that it may be more discriminatory than even the North Carolina statute. The Mississippi bill would essentially make it impossible to sue for gender or sexuality discrimination if the motivation for the discrimination was religion.

Here are some of the bill's provisions:

  • Any organization can decline "to provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, formation, celebration or recognition of any marriage."
  • Employers can make a "decision whether or not to hire, terminate or discipline an individual whose conduct or religious beliefs are inconsistent with those of the religious organization."
  • Mississippians can deny housing based on religious beliefs.
  • Foster care organizations and adoption agencies can "decline to provide any adoption or foster care service" without fear of retribution.
  • The state can't prosecute any person who "declines to participate in the provision of treatments, counseling, or surgeries related to sex reassignment or gender identity transitioning or declines to participate in the provision of psychological, counseling or fertility services" or any wedding- or marriage-related services.
  • Schools and business owners can establish "sex-specific standards or policies concerning employee or student dress or grooming, or concerning access to restrooms, spas, baths, showers, dressing rooms, locker rooms, or other intimate facilities or settings."

Despite outcry from LGBT Mississippians and their allies, on-the-ground and national advocates, big and small businesses, and more, Governor Bryant previously said of the bill "I don't think it's discriminatory. I think it gives some people as I appreciate it, the right to be able to say, 'that's against my religious beliefs and I don't need to carry out that particular task.'"

Though Governor Bryant says he believes the bill isn't discriminatory, the many LGBT people and their families living the Magnolia state are now at risk of pervasive harm in their daily lives, from work, to their family lives, to housing, healthcare, and more.

The Southern Poverty Law Center helps breaks down the pervasive impact of discrimination within the bill: 

GLAAD has been speaking out against discriminatory laws in several states, including most recently Georgia, North Carolina, and South Dakota. GLAAD’s resource, "Debunking the 'Bathroom Bills Myth'" is a valuable resource for journalists and everyday people to understand the importance and impact of nondiscrimination bills, and ways to debunk falsehoods that often are raised in opposition to such bills. GLAAD is calling on media, both in Mississippi and nationally, to ask media to hold promoters of such discriminatory bills as HB 1523 accountable for false claims they have made.

LGBT advocates and media figures can also find background information about the LGBT community in Mississippi through GLAAD's guidebook on the state. GLAAD developed the resource with the ACLU of Mississippi and The PRISM Center.



Amplify your opposition to Mississippi’s "license to discriminate" law using the hashtag #NoHB1523, and follow GLAAD on social media for regular updates.