Mississippi’s HB 1523 becomes law today and allows residents to legally deny services to LGBTQ people

NEW YORK - GLAAD, the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, today released a statement as HB 1523 is set to go into effect in the state of Mississippi, granting Mississippians the ability to use so-called “religious exemptions” to legally deny LGBTQ people employment, housing, adoption rights, marriage licenses, and even services at a local business. This follows Department of Justice guidance released last Friday which is built on the same grounds and invites taxpayer-funded federal agencies, government employees, and government contractors to legally discriminate as long as they cite a religious belief as the reason for doing it.

“America was founded on the freedom of religion and this shared value continues to be critical to our nation’s success, but it does not give people the right to impose their beliefs on others, to harm others, or to discriminate,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD. “This law allows hotels, ER doctors, business owners, and even pediatricians to legally deny services to hardworking LGBTQ families in Mississippi, despite the fact that such blatant discrimination flies in the face of Mississippi and American values. The fight is far from over and we stand with advocates in Mississippi who simply want to be treated equal to their coworkers, friends, and neighbors.” 

The law is in direct contrast to a recent study by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) which showed that a majority of Americans oppose anti-LGBTQ “religious exemption” laws. PRRI also found that 72% of Americans support laws that protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. This includes six out of ten (60%) Republicans and 81% of Democrats.

LGBTQ people in Mississippi have long dealt with local and state legislation that targets them based solely on who they are. As the Trump Administration continues to push for state-sanctioned discrimination at the federal level it is voices from these front lines, speaking out about the lived impact of bills like HB 1523, which are vital to combat this expanding anti-LGBTQ agenda.

Since the HB 1523 debate began, GLAAD has been on the ground in Mississippi working with local organizations like the Mississippi Gulf Coast Rainbow Center, the Spectrum Center, and Joshua Generation MCC to help accelerate acceptance for LGBTQ people in the state and protect them from discrimination. From launching a #MyMississippi campaign, a campaign geared to amplify voices of LGBTQ Mississippians; releasing a media resource guide on LGBTQ people living in the state; to co-hosting a United Against Hate rally against HB 1523 last December; GLAAD has been with LGBTQ Mississippians to fight back against this discriminatory “religious exemptions” agenda and will continue to complement and amplify their efforts.