By: Olivia Watkins

Recently Southern states have begun to create legislation that permit discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community. The state of Mississippi passed and the governor signed into law a bill that postures LGBTQ discrimination as permissible based on people’s religious convictions.[1] The bill is titled “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act”.[2] On April 5, 2016 Mississippi Governor, Phil Bryant, signed the bill into law.[3]

While the Act discriminates against same-sex couples and even people with different religious beliefs the language of the Act itself says that the purpose is “to provide certain protections regarding a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction for persons, religious organizations and private associations”.[4] The Act then continues to describe the types of religious beliefs that the Act protects are: (1) those that marriage is meant to be heterosexual, (2) that sexual interactions are reserved specifically for marriages between same-sex couples, and (3) that the terms “male” and “female” are defined as the gender at birth.

In the short period of time that this bill has been discussed on the national stage, people have stood up in opposition of the bill, because it is discriminatory. Two major areas of concern are that housing and hiring decisions can be made to discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community under the bill.[5] The Supreme Court has interpreted the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause to protect individual liberties against the intrusion of the government.[6] In the Court’s landmark same-sex marriage case the Court explained “these liberties extend to certain personal choices central to individual dignity and autonomy, including intimate choices that define personal identity and beliefs.”[7]

But the Fourteenth Amendment prevents states from infringing upon these liberties.[8] Yet, the Mississippi legislation applies to individuals, private associations, and religious organizations.[9] The bill disguises discrimination as religious protection by allowing people to fire people based upon their sexual orientation and deny housing to those in the LGBTQ community.[10] While religious freedom is a foundation of the Constitution, as protected by the First Amendment.[11] But the Mississippi legislation goes above and beyond religious freedom by specifically permitting people to discriminate based upon their perceived religious views.

The bill has not been signed into law for a week but people are patiently waiting for law suits to be filed questioning the constitutionality of this law. Will those claims rely on the Fourteenth Amendment, the First Amendment, or will Mississippians rely on their own Constitution? A Constitution that states “no preference shall be given by law to any religious sect or mode of worship”.[12] However, the law as signed by the Mississippi governor seems to show preference to those of the Christian faith.


[1] Miss. H.B. 1523 (2016).

[2] Id.

[3] Mark Joseph Stern, Mississippi LGBTQ Segregation Bill Signed Into Law by Gov. Phil Bryant, Slate (April 1, 2016 1:35 PM)

[4] Miss. H.B. 1523 (2016).

[5] Id.

[6] See Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S. Ct. 2584, 2597 (2015).

[7] Id.

[8] U.S. Const. amend. XIV.

[9] Miss. H.B. 1523 (2016).

[10] Id.

[11] U.S. Const. amend. I.

[12] Miss. Const. art. III, § 18.

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