Mississippi, April 4, 2016 – While all eyes have been on North Carolina’s draconian anti-LGBT legislation, the Mississippi House introduced House Bill 1523 (HB 1523), which would allow individuals to deny LGBT persons services, housing, and even employment.

HB 1523 is a response to the gains in LGBT equality across the country, including last summer’s historic marriage equality win at the Supreme Court. Really, this legislation is fueled by misguided religious narratives that say offering services for LGBT people somehow goes against their religious beliefs.

“The theology doesn’t add up,” said Eliel Cruz, Executive Director of Faith in America. “We’ve seen many times — a florist, photographer, or baker claim ‘sincerely held religious beliefs’ to deny LGBT people services. Yet, what exactly are those sincerely held religious beliefs? Where is the scriptural backing to equate a picture or a cake to a sexual act? These individuals are masking their homophobia and transphobia as ‘sincerely held religious beliefs’ with absolutely no theological foundation that holds any water. All the while giving themselves, and unrightfully so, spiritual authority to ‘condone’ another person’s life. The only being that can condone anything is God and as I argued in Religion News Service last year –Jesus would bake the cake.

Mississippi Senate is prioritizing so called religious beliefs against serving LGBT people at the cost of LGBT people. This isn’t about a cake, it’s about equality. LGBT people shouldn’t have to be inconvenienced and humiliated because of someone’s outdated and misguided religious teachings.

“I’m disappointed in my home state of Mississippi for allowing this awful piece of legislation to hit the senate floor. This is nothing more than religious homophobia as legislation,” said Lance Bass, actor and musician. “Earlier this year, Mississippi lost Mercedes Williams, a 17 year old trans girl murdered because she was trans. What is Mississippi’s Senate doing to protect the trans community? Instead of serving all of their constituents, Mississippi is prioritizing the sensitivities of the religious “wrong” over the lives of LGBT people. I know Mississippi’s community is better than this. It is imperative that Governor Phil Bryant vetoes this bill immediately.”

Board Chair and co-founder of Faith In America, Mitchell Gold, expresses his outrage over HB 1523. “Does Mississippi really want to go down the same path as Indiana, Georgia, and soon, North Carolina? Indiana and Georgia faced extreme backlash over their anti-LGBT legislation that cost them millions,” Mitchell Gold said. “North Carolina is currently facing this same backlash and I’m certain Governor McCrory will soon come to his senses, veto HB2, and apologize to the LGBT community. As a North Carolina gay business man with stores across the country — including Mississippi — this is not the southern hospitality we are known for. Mississippi needs to not go do down a dangerous path that will take the state back to the dark ages.”

The bill was expected to go to the governor today. Faith In America joins other local and national LGBT equality advocates in calling on the governor to veto this bill.

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About Faith In America:
Established in 2006, Faith In America is a non-profit organization whose ultimate goal is to end decades and centuries of using religious teachings to justify marginalizing and discriminating against others. We are dedicated to influencing media and faith community narratives on religion and sexuality. Our goal is to move the needle forward on LGBTQ equality in the pews and in our legislation. Our Mission is to educate the public about the ongoing harm caused to LGBTQ persons, especially youth, by religious-based prejudice. Our dream is to change the hearts and minds of religious communities on the “sinful” nature of homosexuality. To remove it permanently from “the sin list.”