New bill a no-win situation

Echo Staff

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Last week, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed House Bill 1523, which is supposedly a “religious freedom bill.” We students find this law a no-win situation for anyone.

We’re afraid that those who just briefly look over the bill, which is pleasantly called the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” are oblivious as to what really is going to happen. Even though the title sounds nice, it is will cause Mississippi more problems than it is worth.

This bill has no real purpose other than to take away rights away from gay people. It is called a “religious freedom” bill, but that freedom is already covered in the First Amendment. In fact, the governor said in a statement last week that the bill “merely reinforces the rights which currently exist to the exercise of religious freedom as stated in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.” In its best form, then, it’s unnecessary.

But what it boils down to is that anyone can be denied service now. Say someone that is not your religion owns a store they basically can say, “Oh so and so is against my religion I can’t serve you.” Individual government workers can also say, “I know I chose this job to help citizens, but not all of them.”

Local leaders of Columbus have already spoken out about the law, including Mayor Robert Smith, who told The Commercial Dispatch it “moves our state decades back in one giant step.” He added, “This bill legalizes discrimination no matter how you read it.”

Maybe nothing bad will come of it, but the worst part is it basically sends the message that Mississippi hates LBGT community and that we want all of their community out.

Even if authors didn’t mean it exactly like that, it is being taken that way and is already hurting us.

Big businesses that this state needs to survive, like Nissan, have spoken out about it. Other big companies have talked about how hard it will be for the state to attract business, and many of them have signed letters opposing the bill. Some of them include: Levi Strauss, General Electric, Hyatt Hotels, Dow Chemicals, Whole Foods, Hewlett Packard, and Pepsi. We don’t want to see the state lose thousands of job opportunities because of the fear of discrimination.

North Carolina felt the burn of a similar law they wanted to put in place, because PayPal backed out of a 3.6-million-dollar deal that would have created 400 jobs.

And then what about education?

With the bill religious based colleges can deny the very best student in all of Mississippi based on the fact that they are gay. Not only will it hinder the school it will deny this man or woman the education they worked for and earned.

Schools could also assign female or male students a dress code that can go against not only their gender identity, but the student’s own religion.

The bill also states that your gender is based upon anatomy not what you feel you are or if you have been genetically altered to be another sex.

This leads to a major question of how would you know. This can lead to invasion of privacy if you just need to use the restroom after a long trip.

There are too many unanswered questions and too many potential problems for this to be a bill we can support. Mississippi needs to think about the future and who we want to be.


Shawn White

Hunter Brown

Dawson Elmore

Taylor Hairston

Madison Perkins

Allie Russell

Domari Simmons

Jasmyn Webb