The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has weighed in on the bills we’ve been working on at PTN. In a statement released on Monday, the agency condemned state laws and pending legislation that sanction discrimination, especially against LGBT Americans, under the guise of religious liberty.
The statement called out Mississippi's HB 1523 and Tennessee's HB 1840 as examples of this harmful trend. Mississippi's HB 1523, signed into law earlier this month, could allow a range of individuals, corporations, healthcare providers, and nonprofit organizations—including those that receive taxpayer funding to perform social services—to refuse to provide goods and services to same sex couples, single mothers, divorcees, and anyone who has had sex outside of marriage and their families. Tennessee's HB 1840 (sitting on the governor’s desk) would allow counselors and therapists in private practice to refuse to serve a client if doing so would violate their “sincerely held principles” Permitting refusals would result in discrimination and clearly harm client who are refused health care..
“Religious freedom is an important foundation of our nation. However, in the past, ‘religious liberty’ has been used to block racial integration and anti-discrimination laws. Those past efforts failed and this new attempt to revive an old evasive tactic should be rejected as well," said Commission Chairman Martin R. Castro of the state bills. "[This legislation] perverts the meaning of religious liberty and perpetuates homophobia, transphobia, marginalizes the transgender and gay community and has no place in our society."
Protect Thy Neighbor is monitoring and fighting legislation in Congress and State Houses across the country that would allow individuals, businesses, and government employees to harm others in the name of religion. You can see what bills we're monitoring on our Legislation Tracker. (And if you live in Tennessee, you can take action to urge the governor to veto HB 1840.)