Civil Rights Groups Speak Out Against Freedom of Conscience Bill
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Some civil rights groups are coming out against a bill they believe will allow state officials to discriminate against gay Mississippians.

House Bill 1523, otherwise known as the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” would allow individuals around the state to deny certain services to others if the act would violate a deeply held religious belief.

However, some groups believe the measure is aimed squarely at allowing individuals, businesses and government officials to discriminate against gay Mississippians. Erik Fleming is with the American Civil Liberties union of Mississippi and a former state Representative. Speaking to reporters at a press conference in the Capitol Rotunda, Fleming says the act allows for open discrimination.

“House Bill 1523 does not advance religious liberty, but instead allows people to discriminate against LGBT people and hide behind religion to do so,” says Fleming.

Others believe the measure violates federal mandates, and would open the state up to numerous lawsuits. Rob Hill is with the Human Rights Campaign – a group that has pushed for gay and transgender rights.

“It’s clearly unconstitutional, and it will not survive,” says Hill. “It’s a waste to taxpayers to have to defend this in federal courts.”

Supporters of the act say the measure is constitutional, and only works to protect the religious rights of all Mississippians. House Bill 1523 is now before the full senate for its approval.