24 responses

  1. TampaZeke
    April 2, 2014

    I knew my moment of pride wouldn’t last long!

  2. Nathaniel
    April 2, 2014

    Timothy, thanks for the second look. I had forgotten about federal-level rules that were designed to permit peyote use. Is there precedence for their application to permitting pot use?

    I do see some problems with your hypothetical pro-equality clerk. The first is that while s/he may be permitted to approve the license, there is nothing to say the state must honor it. I have my doubts as to how this law could be stretched to force the state to recognize same-sex marriages. Then there is the little matter of the progress of the lawsuits overturning the anti-marriage laws. As soon as SCOTUS overturns them all, this hypothetical scenario would become moot. While it is a cute illustration of how this “religious freedom” law could backfire, I doubt it has any practical chance at reality.

  3. Baker
    April 2, 2014

    Actually, the frequency of “instances of actual anti-gay discrimination in the provision of services” — rather than “infrequent” (which is vague and relative) — is not known. We have only limited reports, and I doubt most instances are reported. Indeed, wherever anti-gay discrimination is legal, there’s no illegal act to be reported. Even when discrimination, legal or illegal, is reported, most instances don’t make headlines, much less result in a lawsuit. And while there may be “little [financial] advantage to be had by turning down business from gay customers”, I suspect there’s also little disadvantage to be suffered, especially if such cases are few or unreported. If “most folks would rather stay out of a war”, I suspect that also applies to most persons who’ve been discriminated against too. I suspect most would say little or nothing of consequence.

    In regard to the claim that “this bill changes nothing”, I wonder what will be the effect of this law on any future attempts by Mississippi cities and towns to enact local anti-discrimination ordinances? Will this state law have to be repealed first? It is being reported in the news that “according to the Human Rights Campaign, the measure could undermine future state non-discrimination laws, interfere with licensing organizations that have professional regulations protecting LGBT individuals and undermine public university non-discrimination policies.” And it’s reported that the ACLU says “It exposes virtually every branch and office of the government to litigation; our state will have to spend taxpayer money to defend lawsuits.”

    Likewise, if “this bill changes nothing”, then it does not empower or authorize any clerk “to offer marriage certification to same-sex couples”. Or more generally, what is the sense of claiming “this bill changes nothing” and then claiming it has “opened a colossal can of worms”?

  4. tristram
    April 2, 2014

    Timothy – This bill may have unintended consequences and open cans of worms for its proponents in the long run. But you can be sure that it will immediately have its intended consequence – making the everyday lives of lgbt people in that benighted state more uncertain and miserable. Kids all over the state will wake up tomorrow knowing that their state government felt it should pass special legislation to make it clear that gay people get no respect. The law is a license to bully in schools and workplaces (“Don’t like it? So sue me.”)

    It will encourage a nurse to turn away someone whose life partner is dying in the emergency room; endanger the life of a kid whose pharmacist says “we don’t sell these (condoms) to queers”; empower a school principal to fire the English teacher for putting The Perks of Being a Wallflower on a reading list or reading from The Laramie Project in drama club; incite a waitress to say “if you wanna hold hands there are other places your kind can get dinner.”

    This sort of stuff and a million other damages and indignities – all with the brand new, official seal of approval of the State of Mississippi. The bill will never affect me personally because “Don’t set foot in Mississippi” is near the top of my bucket list. But it breaks my heart because I know it’s going to make it that much harder for some kids to believe “It gets better” and to hang on until it does.

  5. Michael
    April 2, 2014

    The Right is so talented in the way they “wordsmith” to get favorable results in their polling and in the media. Examples include “death taxes” and “special rights for homosexuals” to substitute for the term “equality”. These bills seem like the perfect situation to turn the tables using the type of wordsmithing that they perfected. We need to start describing this issue as “special rights for fundamentalist Christians to impose their views on the rest of the population.”

  6. Richard Rush
    April 2, 2014

    Perhaps another reason not to feel “panicked about the Mississippi bill” is that it could be a deterrent to other states that may be considering similar bills. After all, how many states would want to be seen as emulating Mississippi, the most religious state in the nation, but also the state with the lowest education levels, plus the highest rates of poverty, obesity, diabetes, and infant mortality.

  7. PLAINTOM
    April 2, 2014

    You all are cordially invited to my Temples for Bacchus which will be opening soon in every Mississippi town with a college campus. Open 24/7 and obviously no age restrictions. We don’t even plan to ask the cities or state for any permits which would effect our deeply held religious beliefs (they don’t apply to us under this law). Clothing optional and all sacramental beverages available to the faithful for small donations. Non-believers will be barred from from our holy sites (those pagans with badges are easy to spot). Let the games begin. :)

  8. Nick
    April 2, 2014

    So big hearted of you to be “not panicked” about MS. Guess you don’t have to live (or die) there…

  9. ebohlman
    April 2, 2014

    Big problem I see is with pre-professional education programs. In many cases these programs need accreditation from the relevant professional association in the field, and many of those associations have non-discrimination requirements that the programs have to observe in order to attain their accreditation.

    There have already been a few cases where homophobic students in counseling programs sued to be exempted from the requirements of the accrediting body that, in the course of their practicum, they must be non-discriminatory toward GLBT clients. They lost, but with a law like this they might not.

    At this point a college or university with an accredited program is stuck: they’re now legally required to grant exemptions, but the accrediting body is within its rights to drop accreditation, at which point a degree from the school becomes professionally worthless. Among other things, that will impose severe hardship on students currently enrolled in the program (they’ll essentially have to transfer out of state and repeat much of their coursework).

  10. Lord_Byron
    April 3, 2014

    The purpose of this bill, at least as intended, is to put conservative christian religious beliefs above everyone else and above the law.

  11. Jim Hlavac
    April 3, 2014

    I have lived in Mississippi — Natchez and Woodville to be specific – and done business all over the state – and I am from NYC originally (accent and all), lived in West Palm Beach and Houston TX – now Phoenix AZ — let me say that “anti-gay” is by the person — not the “state” or any other collective. I have never experienced “anti-gay” in Mississippi – but I did experience it in Manhattan. I have, however, experience gay acceptance in Mississippi that would marvel San Francisco.

    Then too – the law is modeled almost word for word on a law signed by Bill Clinton — The http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_Freedom_Restoration_Act — signed into law by “our friend” Bill Clinton — has been on the books for 20 years or so.
    The words are nearly exactly the same – and if naught came of it federally in 20 years — I doubt it will in Mississippi.

    Then too — no law of this type mentions “homosexuals” “Gays” or “LGBT” or any other group – nor do they use the word “Christian” or any such thing — they are so broad that a Muslim cabdriver might discriminate against a Baptist wearing a cross – and it be legal under the federal and state statutes.

    And that’s where the funny part is — it’ll be the Muslim v Christian or Vice versa — or the Methodist v Presbyterian long before it’ll be “hetero” v “homo” — and thus I don’t worry and say let the law hoist them by their petards

  12. KZ
    April 3, 2014

    “And so they’ve passed a phenomenally stupid bill that is likely to bite them in the ass.”

    Whoa, for a minute there, I thought you were talking about UGANDA and not Mississippi.

  13. Nathaniel
    April 3, 2014

    Richard, the answer to your question is North Carolina. We’ve been trying to emulate Mississippi for a few years now, including trashing our education system and all the attempts to keep gay people where they belong.

  14. NancyP
    April 3, 2014

    The state may allow discrimination by licensed professionals, but the national accrediting bodies / certifying boards can deny accreditation or board certification, and there isn’t a thing the offending refuse-to-treat professional can do about it, as long as the national boards stay committed.

  15. Priya Lynn
    April 3, 2014

    Timothy can’t see beyond his liberal big city surroundings. Its a whole different story for gays and lesbians in republican dominated small towns and the countryside.

  16. NancyP
    April 3, 2014

    The major use of these laws is to allow health care professionals to deny care to women seeking reproductive health services. This movement started with pharmacists refusing to fulfill birth control prescriptions. Some state laws were enacted to protect such pharmacists from lawsuit and from firing. The current bill adds another layer of coverage for pharmacists, paramedics, emergency room personnel, etc dealing with women. It may also cover uniformed civilians (police and fire) who refuse to deal with trespassing, vandalism/fire, and assault on Planned Parenthood and other institutional providers of birth control, day after pill, and/or abortion. Refusal of service to gays is an afterthought, an “added benefit” from their standpoint, to this type of bill.

  17. Richard Rush
    April 3, 2014

    Question: If a county clerk’s sincerely held religious belief requires the acceptance of same-sex marriage, is s/he protected under this new law if s/he issues a marriage license to a s-s couple?

  18. Baker
    April 3, 2014

    In light of the tremendous attention given to these types of bills of late, “refusal of service to gays” can hardly be considered merely an “afterthought” as these types of bills are currently making their way through various legislatures. Rather than an “added benefit”, it may be one of the primary motivations.

  19. Baker
    April 3, 2014

    Richard, I think it’s generally held that government has a compelling interest in preventing the problems that would result if clerks (or anybody else for that matter) were allowed to issue licenses (marriage, medical, driving, etc.) simply because that person decided it’s in keeping with her own personal religious visions. And in fact, the law expressly states that “Government may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” if it “is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.” I think that would allow the government to fire the clerk and even to jail her, so that her exercise of her religion will not harm the public.

  20. Richard Rush
    April 3, 2014

    Baker, thanks for the detailed explanation. Admittedly, I have not read the bill.

    Here is another scenario: Let’s suppose that SCOTUS produces a decision that mandates marriage equality in all fifty states, and let’s also assume that Mississippi’s law is still in effect. So, I wonder if a county clerk then refuses to issue a marriage license to a s-s couple based, of course, on sincerely held religious beliefs, would the state proceed to “fire the clerk and even jail him/her so that his/her exercise of religion will not harm the public.”

    I’m trying to determine if the language of the law has been manipulated so that actions harming gay people are easily protected by invoking the law, while actions benefiting gays are much more difficult to protect when invoking the law.

  21. Timothy Kincaid
    April 3, 2014

    Priya Lynn,

    The nearest town to where I grew up had a population of about 6,000. Not as small as some of the neighboring hamlets, but not exactly “liberal big city”, either.

  22. Baker
    April 3, 2014

    Richard, these sorts of laws generally provide that government must use “the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.” The “least restrictive means” when a clerk has a religious objection to issuing particular licenses may not be the same as when a clerk is dead set on issuing bogus licenses. The harms are different, and the appropriate remedies can also be different. Why couldn’t the clerk when she has a religious objection (or other mental problem) with a particular license simply switch off with another clerk who is happy and competent to handle it? Is it any worse than when a clerk has to fetch her supervisor for occasional assistance? We don’t generally fire clerks for that, do we?

  23. Richard Rush
    April 3, 2014

    Thanks again, Baker.

  24. Ben
    April 4, 2014

    Another conservative apologetics article from Timothy “here is why I, a well to-do white man, am not worried” Kincaid.

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