Mississippi Passes US’s Most Sweeping Anti-LGBT Rights Bill with HB1523, Strikes Fear into Hearts

feature image via Nagel Photography / Shutterstock.com

Holy Shit, Mississippi, HB1523 is Terrifying

+ Mississippi has joined the ranks of states that now have terrifying bills codifying discrimination against LGBT people with the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience From Government Discrimination Act.” The bill, which passed 31-17, says that “businesses, social workers and public employees cannot be punished for denying services based on the belief that marriage is between a man and a woman or that “sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.” It also protects individuals who believe gender is determined at birth.” Good Lord!

Now-infamously, the bill is being derided as even applying to women wearing pants in the workplace and heterosexual people having sex outside of marriage. Yes, that is very bad, but also the more obvious and intended consequences of this bill are extremely bad! Protect Thy Neighbor has compiled a list of hypothetical situations that are now terrifyingly possible, including “a counselor could refuse to help an LGBT person who called a suicide hotline.” Some are saying it’s the most sweeping anti-LGBT legislation in the US.

Although obviously laws aimed at chipping away legal protections for LGBT people are popping up all over the US, most of the others we’ve seen are in practical terms trying to do a small fraction of what we see in the Mississippi law. Bills like more common RFRAs or “Pastor Protection” laws are usually limited to religious institutions or private businesses, although many may have the eventual goal of being gradually bulked up to look like Mississippi’s law. It’s not clear yet what the limits of this law could be, as we haven’t really seen anything like it before — could doctors refuse to treat LGBT patients? Could universities refuse to accept them as students? Unclear! Although the bill is supposed to protect “people” and their religious beliefs, the definition of a person within this bill includes a “sole proprietorship, or closely held company, partnership, association, organization, firm, corporation, cooperative, trust, society or other closely held entity.” What is clear is that Mississippi just got much less safe for many, many people — and that other states may be taking note.

HB2 and its Aftermath

+ North Carolina’s governor Pat McCrory claims he’s not aware of how HB2 interacts with local anti-discrimination ordinances… because he’s been traveling a lot? (This is also patently and obviously untrue, as the reason HB2 gained impetus was because Charlotte had passed a local ordinance, and there was desire to cancel it out.) In what seems to be a truly astonishing interview, he claims that coverage of the bill, which is itself a malicious attack on what transmisogynists like to call “political correctness run amok,” is also political correctness run amok. In case you were worried: no, he does not manage to make it through the interview without asking the reporter “wonder if your daughter or son was showering and all of a sudden a man walks into the locker room and says, ‘This is what I am.’ Would you want that for your child?” PHEW.

+ North Carolina’s attorney general has said he will refuse to defend HB2, because it’s unconstitutional.

“Over the last 15 years our office has defended state officials and agencies when [they] have been sued,” the Democratic attorney general said. “We will continue to do this, but we will not defend the constitutionality of this bill.”
He said his office would “have nothing to do with this.” Cooper explained that on top of the prior reasons listed for not supporting the bill, it also went directly against a nondiscrimination policy that was instated in his office in 2001. “I made a promise,” Cooper said about the policy, “that any employee who gets the job done here should be welcome without fear of discrimination. House Bill 2 is in direct conflict with our policy.”

+ NY’s Governor Cuomo has banned all non-essential state travel to NC in the wake of HB2.

+ Longreads has rounded up eight pieces on HB2 in NC (including one of ours!).

+ On the legal fight against HB2 in North Carolina.

Lead plaintiff Joaquin Carcaño, 27, of Greensboro is a transgender man who works at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill at the school’s Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases and claims the new law will interfere with his ability to do his job. He performs HIV testing and provides medical education to the Latino population, and if he wasn’t able to use the men’s bathroom at work, he would have to set off on a search for a bathroom off campus. The lawsuit says that “preventing him from using the multiple occupancy restroom that other men are able to use is stigmatizing and marks him as different and lesser than other men. It also interferes with his ability to perform his job duties by requiring him to leave his building each time he needs to use the restroom throughout the work day.”

Law & Order

+ The latest in Zubik v. Burwell, the major contraception/religious freedom SCOTUS case you’re probably not hearing much about: rather than handing down a decision, the SCOTUS has asked for additional briefs on the case, specifically regarding “whether and how contraceptive coverage may be obtained by petitioners’ employees through petitioners’ insurance companies, but in a way that does not require any involvement of petitioners beyond their own decision to provide health insurance without contraceptive coverage to their employees.”

+ Park Cannon, Georgia’s newest queer elected official, spoke in the GA House of Representatives for the first time on the subject of its proposed “religious freedom” bill.

parkcannon

+ Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe has vetoed a bill that would have “prohibit the state from punishing religious groups that refuse services related to gay marriages,” saying that to pass it would have been legalizing discrimination.

+ Evangelicals are very sad that Georgia governor Nathan Deal caved to corporations and vetoed a “pastor protection” bill.

“This is a prime example of why Republicans across the nation are concerned and upset,” said Don Hattaway, 51, senior pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Cartersville in north Georgia. “We vote for politicians according to what they say, and then when they get in office they do the contrary. It’s come to the point in Georgia that we don’t know who to trust.”

+ People who lost their licenses because of drug crimes in Massachusetts can now get them back.

Police/Prison/Violence

+ Loreal Tsingine, a Navajo woman, was killed by police this week in Winslow, Arizona. Officers say they were responding to a report of shoplifting, and that they felt threatened by scissors they report Tsingine had on her person. She was shot five times on a sidewalk.

+ On the horrific abuse of trans women in detention in the US.

“Do you think anyone deserves to be punished like this? Sometimes I get anxious. I thought about killing myself once, but then I regretted it and told myself I wasn’t going to do it. I said, ‘Lord, you gave me my life, why am I going to take it away?’ It’s not His fault they have me suffering here like this.”

+ Police have released surveillance video and photos of the man who raped a trans woman in the Stonewall Inn bathroom, describing him as a “Hispanic man 35 to 45 years old, standing 5’9’’ to 5’11” and weighing about 250 pounds, with a goatee.”

+ There will be no criminal charges filed against the police officers who killed Jamar Clark in Minneapolis. The officers claimed that Clark had tried to grab one of their guns; other witnesses say Clark was handcuffed, and couldn’t have done so. The Hennepin County attorney says that forensic evidence supports the officers’ story. Buzzfeed has a narrative account of the night of Clark’s death and the various accounts of what occurred.

+ The DOJ has revealed its plan to drastically revamp the Newark Police Department, which it found using excessive force and racially discriminatory practices two years ago.

+ Well this is just out of control. What life is like after police ransack your house and take every belonging, then the charges are dropped. Because the medical marijuana laws are confusing in Michigan, all this family’s property is destroyed and their kids are traumatized by a guns-out raid — and this is a white family in a state where marijuana is legal in some situations! Not, of course, that they are less deserving of police violence than other families, but you can imagine how much worse this is and how much more often it happens to other people.

Under asset forfeiture laws, police are allowed to seize and keep property suspected of involvement in a crime, regardless of whether the property’s owners are ever convicted — or even charged, in many cases. Michigan’s laws are particularly skewed against property owners, according a 2015 report from the Institute for Justice. The nonprofit civil liberties law firm gave Michigan a D- on its forfeiture laws, citing “poor protections for innocent property owners” and policies that allow police to keep up to 100 percent of the proceeds from forfeited property, creating a profit motive for seizing belongings. Annette Shattuck says that since the charges have been dismissed, the Drug Task Force has returned some of her property. But much of it is damaged. Electronic items are missing power cords and remotes. Her and her husband’s phones were smashed. They returned her husband’s guns and the safe he stored it in, but they didn’t return the key. Two of the kids’ insurance cards are missing. Shattuck says her marriage and birth certificates haven’t been returned, and since the Task Force does not itemize seized documents in its paperwork, it has no record of taking them in the first place.

+ Obama has now commuted the sentences of 248 incarcerated people over his two terms, most recently 61 people incarcerated for drug offenses.

Election Shmelection

+ Alarmingly, the US Border Patrol union has endorsed Donald Trump, the candidate who has suggested essentially deporting any group he doesn’t feel like a fan of on a whim.

+ Welp, Donald Trump visited Wisconsin! It was protested before he even arrived in the state, with six people handcuffing themselves together inside the hotel scheduled to host him. During a protest outside his event in Janesville, a 15-year-old girl was pepper sprayed at close range in the face after defending herself from being groped. He also did a bunch of radio interviews, with mixed success.

+ An interview with Angela Davis on the “fascist appeal” of Trump and why she’s not endorsing anybody.

Endorsing? I don’t endorse. But let me say that, well, to be frank, I’ve actually never voted for one of the two-party—two major parties in a presidential election before Barack Obama. I believe in independent politics. I still think that we need a new party, a party that is grounded in labor, a party that can speak to all of the issues around racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, what is happening in the world. We don’t yet have that party. And even as we participate in this electoral process, as it exists today, I think we need to be looking ahead toward a very different kind of political process. At the same time, we put pressure on whoever is running. So I’m actually more interested in helping to develop mass movements that can create the kind of pressure that will force whoever is elected or whoever becomes the candidate to move in more progressive directions.

+ A new study looks at the US’s ten largest school districts, which happen to count students of color in the majority, and found that several have more school police officers than guidance counselors.

Grab Bag

+ New York’s Cooper Union will remove gender markers from its bathrooms.

“I cannot change the outside world and how it treats transgender and gender non-conforming people,” he continued. “But I can change the Cooper Union environment to help everyone feel safe when they are inside our buildings.”

+ New updates to guidelines for Mifeprex, a pill that can terminate a pregnancy early on in its progress, say that pregnant people can take it within a longer time period than previously recommended, ten weeks instead of seven, and that it can be taken at home rather than needing to be taken in the presence of a physician.

+ Karen Ocamb has been writing and reporting on LGBT news for years, having joined LGBT print publication Frontiers Magazine in 2002. As of this week, she’s not anymore — because Frontiers called her in out of vacation to tell her that they were letting her go because they were “moving toward a digital and millennial audience, and we wanted to give the generation of millennials a real shot at creating our content.”

+ This just in: MetroWeekly found a Maryland Republican who is a homophobe with a lesbian daughter, and also appears to love saying nonsense things. “I have a lesbian daughter. I love my daughter, I want no harm to come to her, but our traditions matter and tolerance is a two-way street.”

+ The governor of Utah has signed a bill requiring anesthesia for abortions occurring after 20 weeks, based on the patently false idea that 20-week-old fetuses can feel pain. (They cannot.)

+ A new report shows that the Affordable Care Act did help the most vulnerable Americans access health insurance.

+ On how increased awareness of government surveillance of citizens is inhibiting those in marginalized groups who feel targeted by surveillance to share their thoughts and opinions.

Researchers presented 255 participants with a fictitious Facebook post discussing a hypothetical U.S. airstrike targeting ISIS. They were then asked whether the airstrike was a good or a bad decision. Additionally, about half of those participants were also shown a post that alluded to the government’s online surveillance programs. The study found that politically active participants were more likely to express an opinion if they felt that a terrorist attack was imminent. Overall, people who perceived themselves as having an unpopular opinion were less likely to comment, share, like, or post, in response to news of a U.S. airstrike campaign. The most startling finding, however, was that people who believed the government was collecting their online data refused to share their feelings even if the majority of comments supported their opinions. “When individuals think they are being monitored and disapprove of such surveillance practices, they are equally as unlikely to voice opinions in friendly opinion climates as they are in hostile ones,” researchers concluded.

+ In a poll of a sample of registered voters, 50% said they supported a temporary ban on Muslims traveling to the US, and that number included one third of Democrats. For those wondering how Trump’s popularity could be possible, well, there’s a piece of the puzzle!

Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1047 articles for us.

16 Comments

  1. I think the Election Shmelection is missing one important little thing that Trump said: “there has to be some form of punishment” for women who end a pregnancy once a ban is implemented.

    Weird as it sound, I think it’s the first time that this pig was really honest about something and, of course, let’s not forget that it seems that the immaculate conception is running rampant in the US because punishment for men? That’s a big NO NO

  2. This could be a very ignorant and stupid question but unfortunately I’m not 100% familiar has to how the Federal Government/States Governments/Local Governments relationships work, but there’s nothing that the Federal Government can do about this Hate Bills? I don’t know, maybe taking away some federal funds? As we say in my country, “por la plata baila el mono” (money makes the monkey dance) and always works.

    • The Federal government can’t do anything to the state government for passing a law like this. It is within the state’s power to make laws like that. The law can be challenged as unconstitutional though either under the state constitution or the US constitution.

      • *Technically*, they could use funding to coerce states into dropping these laws. This is how the drinking age is set at 21 – states that refuse to do so would lose federal funding for highways/transportation.

        But this situation is extremely rare as budget decisions go through congress where a lot of people support these bills and many who don’t would be uncomfortable with the infringement on states’ rights.

        Basically, like Jessica said, courts are our only real hope beyond corporate pressure.

    • So, there are a lot of things the federal government could do, but the thing that gets discussed most–and which, in fact, may have dissuaded Tennessee lawmakers from moving on their anti-LGBT effort–is education dollars.

      Last year, the Department of Education stipulated that Title IX protections extend to transgender students. Restricting access to bathrooms is, therefore, a civil rights violation (the NC plaintiffs actually make this case in their filing). If found to be in violation of Title IX, the Department of Education could withdraw federal funding. To use NC as an example, the state could lose $4.5 billion.

      So why doesn’t the Department of Education just do that? Well, it’d be a pretty crippling move…you’d essentially be condemning public education…and, as far as I know, it’s without precedent. Most of the time, the Department of Education just sends threatening letters and the states rush to the negotiating table. This process usually takes an incredibly long time–it took two years of documented discrimination to substantiate a claim with the DOE’s Office of Civil Rights in one Illinois High School.

      In the interim, the administration contributes by submitting amicus briefs in legal challenges. They have, for example, submitted briefs in Grimm v. Gloucester which is currently before the 4th Circuit (and which may strike down the HB2 in NC before that litigation even gets going).

  3. Reading about all these anti-LGBT bills just exhausts me. It’s necessary information and I need to keep myself informed, so I read it all anyway, but it’s tiring knowing just how much a good chunk of the population wants to deny me my personhood based on my sexuality or my gender. I think I need to go look at baby animals for 2-3 hours.

  4. Hopefully the Mississippi law gets challenged as unconstitutional under equal protection. I don’t know what the legitimate government interest could be in this law. If sexual orientation could gain traction as an immutable trait and gain protected class status then regulations such as these would at least have to meet intermediate scrutiny and wouldn’t likely survive. As these laws are passed, people have to be ready to challenge them and advance the possibility of getting sexual orientation recognized as a protected class.

  5. There are so many things in this post that appaul and amaze me as a non resident of the US looking from the outside in. However, none of us anywhere else in the world can afford to feel complacent either. While I think that this degree of legislative persecution is unlikely in other Anglophone countries,as the majority are far more overtly secular and somewhat less right wing than the US, the world is changing rather dramatically at the moment and there are still many places where this and worse things are happening to our communities. More reasons for us all to stand, be recognised and advocate for each other.

    • Well darling, as a Trans woman and living in beautiful Australia, we too have a few arseholes in Govt , albeit Christian’s who want to destroy us lezzo’s/ gay’s and “trannies” , all in the name of Jesus of course.
      We did change leaders a few times, last arsehole was an Australian milder version of Trump, but this new one is spineless and bows to those that threaten the hand of God who will strike down us molesters and deviants.
      YES – We are all at risk…………………And I have only just started my transition at the age of 68,shit, have I taken on something here.
      Anna

  6. Christofascism is very real, and it is creeping not so slowly anymore. This must not be tolerated! It’s important to make these kinds of laws backfire on christians…use the law to discriminate against them and see how they like it.

    • I don’t think that’s a healthy solution. We shouldn’t attack an entire religion for the actions of their lunatics. Same goes with Islam. We need to deal with the extremists and radicals.

    • i had just been talking to a friend of mine the other day about how mississippi laws are really better than you’d expect, and then we go and do a thing like this. it’s just. i can’t. so disappointed but so unsurprised.

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