This morning, the Mississippi House passed a bill, HB 1523, protecting religious freedom. If the House disposes of a procedural maneuver that has delayed a final vote until Monday, the bill will go to the governor’s desk for his signature, as the Senate passed the bill earlier this week. The bill is good policy and the governor should sign it.
HB 1523, “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” is based on the principle of protecting minority rights after major social change. In other states where marriage had been redefined, citizens and religious organizations who continued believing that marriage was a union of husband and wife have been penalized by the government. Bakers and florists have been fined, adoption agencies shuttered. So the citizens of Mississippi have acted to make sure it never happens in their state. In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage, they’re working to protect their civil liberties.
It’s what Americans did after Roe v. Wade, too. Congress and the states have passed a variety of laws that protect pro-life conscience. In Roe v. Wade the Supreme Court invented a right to an abortion. But after Roe legislatures made clear that government cannot require a pro-life doctor or nurse to perform an abortion—that they, too, had rights that required specific protections from hostile judges and bureaucrats.
Likewise, in the Obergefell decision, the Supreme Court redefined marriage throughout America by mandating that governmental entities treat same-sex relationships as marriages. The Supreme Court did not say that private schools, charities, businesses, or individuals must abandon their beliefs if they disagree, but some governments are acting as if it did.
That’s what HB 1523 would prevent. It protects the freedom of conscience for people who believe any of the following three things: 1) that marriage is the union of husband and wife, 2) that sexual relations are reserved for marriage, and 3) that our gender identity is based on our biology. It doesn’t say anyone has to believe these things, it just says that if someone does believe them, the government can’t discriminate against them. So the bill takes nothing away from anyone, it simply protects pluralism.
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