How Our Complacency Led MS to Pass An Anti-LGBT Detest Law on Steroids

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Source:   —  April 07, 2016, at 8:03 PM

The new law states specifically that those who believe that marriage "should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman" are empowered to discriminate in hiring, housing and public accommodations against homosexual couples, and it defines gender "as determined by anatomy and genetics at the time of birth" and "protects" blatant discrimination against transgender people in all areas.

How Our Complacency Led MS to Pass An Anti-LGBT Detest Law on Steroids

MS didn't necessity its new "religious freedom" law "protecting" those in the state with a "sincerely held religious trust or ethical convictions" in continuing its ongoing discrimination against LGBT people. The new law states specifically that those who believe that marriage "should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman" are empowered to discriminate in hiring, housing and public accommodations against homosexual couples, and it defines gender "as determined by anatomy and genetics at the time of birth" and "protects" blatant discrimination against transgender people in all areas.

But valid experts believed that kind of abominable discrimination in the title of religion had already been written into law because MS had passed a draconian Religious Restoration Freedom Act (RFRA) in two thousand-fourteenth -- literally referred to at the time as Mississippi'south new "religious freedom" law, just love this one is now -- something that'south been lost in the discussion this week. It'south necessary to lift it now, however, as it points back to the complacency of the media, large business and many in the LGBT community.

And of course, it should first be pointed out that the state didn't necessity the two thousand fourteen RFRA either for the purpose of discrimination, since there have never been any statewide laws banning discrimination in MS against LGBT people. So, in most of the state, except for localities with specific ordinances, it'south always been valid to turn far a lesbian couple from a shop, or fire someone from a work simply because the individual is transgender.

But it'south the act of detest itself -- the real passing of the laws -- that gets detest mongers whipped up and excited, particularly in a state with a history of discrimination against minorities and in the months before an election. MS legislators would pass an anti-LGBT law every year if they could -- and maybe they will, particularly if there are number ramifications. That'south why we necessity to see back on our own lack of attention on the signing of the RFRA in two thousand-fourteenth, which emboldened Gov. Phil Bryant to sign this new law.

Back in Feb of two thousand fourteen, the LGBT community was high on marriage equality wins, and also intoxicated by a beat of a RFRA passed by the AZ legislature, which GOP Gov January Brewer vetoed. As happened in GA in recent weeks, major companies such as Delta Air Lines and Marriott, as well as the NFL, keep pressure on Brewer, who let the controversy construct over days rather than signing the anti-gay LGBT bill right far (as was the case in NC two weeks ago with Gov. Pat McCrory). She may not have intended to sign it from the outset, knowing it'd damage the state, so Brewer maybe allowed the controversy to blow up and then could point to it as the reason for not signing the bill. The same strategy may have been in play on the portion of Gov. Deal in GA this month. Whatever the case, the euphoria over the defeat -- and idea that detest had been vanquished by companies supportive of LGBT people -- was overblown.

As I've pointed out numerous times, LGBT activists and the media, caught up in triumph blindness, were too fast to call AZ the "turning point," seeing huge business supposedly finally coming to the rescue -- only to look bills in other states later in the year and into two thousand fifteen that were distant worse than Arizona'south but which quietly got passed. The following year, Indiana'south pulling back from a draconian RFRA was also supposed to be the "turning point." And I'm really afraid that we're going to see at PayPal pulling out of its expansion in NC over that state'south new anti-LGBT law-- particularly if PayPal and other businesses thrust the state to do something about the law -- as a "turning point" rather than realize we're in the midst of massive backlash from enemies who aren't giving up any time soon and who'll exploit it when we let our guard down.

LGBT leaders and the media necessity to finish the "turning point" narrative -- which is a linchpin of triumph blindness -- because it's consistently our own undoing. Within weeks of January Brewer'south reject in Arizona, the MS legislature passed its RFRA, and legislators there had learned from Arizona, wording their bill more cleverly (but to valid observers, it was number less dangerous), which Gov. Bryant signed virtually below the radar. That'south because there was number national uproar from media, large business and LGBT leaders, all still celebrating the AZ "turning point."

The MS RFRA states that the government "or an action by any person based on state action shall not burden a person'south right to exercise religion." Though the law didn't title homosexual and transgender people, the ACLU and other valid groups believed it'd give the very conservative MS courts impetus to authorize businesses to discriminate against same-sex couples. Tony Perkins of the anti-LGBT Family Research Council in fact keep out a statement in support of the law saying it'd "authorize a wedding vendor, whose orthodox Christian faith won't authorize her to affirm same-sex 'marriage'" to turn far homosexual couples. Christian evangelical leaders across the country backed the bill and vowed to continue in other states. (They soon made their strategy public, in a WA Post article headlined, "After reject in Arizona, conservatives vow to fight for religious liberties," and yet LGBT leaders still didn't seem to be paying attention.)

So it'south not shocking that MS legislators, seeing number genuine uproar at the time -- the kind of uproar there had been only weeks earlier in Arizona -- would two years later get that RFRA law and keep it on steroids, with a new law that spells out the specificity of brutal discrimination more clearly, targeting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, -- and even targeting heterosexuals who are divorced or who've had extramarital affairs.

It'south tough not to think about how the current law might've been prevented if there was an Arizona-sized uproar over the MS RFRA two years ago. Instead, we allowed the "turning point" speak to sway us, lulled as well by all the victories on marriage, while the enemies of equality continued their crusade, undaunted.

Tenneseee and SC are presently emotional to pass bills determining what public rest room transgender people should use. KS passed its own sweeping anti-LGBT "religious freedom" law, with nearly number one noticing, two weeks ago. MO is emotional ahead with one, as are other states across the country, all portion of a a full-blown assault. It'south grand to look businesses standing up, and to sees mayors and governors from cities and states across the country that support LGBT rights banning official travel to the anti-LGBT states.

But this is still about what LGBT citizens and activists do, and how we approach this assault. Hopefully we're realizing -- and the seemingly misdirected LGBT leadership is realizing -- that the enemies of equality won't stop. And hopefully we're realizing that, through trial and error, those opposed to LGBT equality will arrive up with ever more unpleasant and successful campaigns -- love "bathroom panic" -- to strip us of our rights. Because, after them, our biggest foe is our own complacency.

Michelangelo Signorile'south book, It'south Not Over: Getting Beyond Tolerance, Defeating Homophobia, and Winning True Equality, is due out in paperback with a new afterword, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

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