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BREAKING: Horrific Anti-LGBT ‘Religious Freedom’ Bill Passes Mississippi Legislature

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Mississippi Senate Passes ‘Worst Religious Freedom Bill to Date,’ And Gov. Phil Bryant Has Indicated He’ll Sign It 

The Mississippi Senate approved a sweeping anti-LGBT religious freedom bill late Wednesday. The bill heads back to the House for technical reasons but will soon be sent to the desk of Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, who has expressed support for it. 

The Senate voted 31-17 to approve House Bill 1523, known as the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” which would allow individuals, businesses, government employees, nonprofits and other entities to discriminate against not only LGBT people, but also anyone who’s had extramarital sex, based on their sincerely held religious beliefs.  

“This legislation moves Mississippi backward, undermining equality for its residents and jeopardizing its ability to attract and retain fair-minded businesses,” Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said in a statement prior to the bill’s passage. “Governor Byrant should be paying close attention to the backlash against discrimination in Georgia, where Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a terrible anti-LGBT bill, and in North Carolina, where fair-minded people and the broader business community are calling on state leaders to repudiate and repeal the discriminatory law passed last week. Mississippi’s economy and its reputation hang in the balance.”

Ben Needham, director of Project One America, an LGBT advocacy group in the Deep South, told BuzzFeed News that HB 1523 is “probably the worst religious freedom bill to date.” 

GOP Sen. Jenifer Branning, who introduced the bill, said it was drafted in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in favor of same-sex marriage last June. 

“This isn’t a bill to allow any type of discrimination at all. As a matter of fact, it’s quite the opposite,” Branning said. “It’s about protecting the religious freedom of those who don’t feel they can with a clean conscience assist a same-sex couple.”

Democratic Sen. Derrick Simmons, who’s black, spoke against the bill, invoking Mississippi’s long history of racial discrimination. 

“Can we afford with Mississippi’s dark past, can we afford in 2016, to pass anything that can be construed as discrimination?” Simmons said. “People were actually taken brutally from their homes and they were killed based upon what some considered to be, ‘This is my religious belief’ based on ‘We don’t want any mixing of the races.'” 

Democratic Sen. John Hohrn, also black, cited three Bible verses that implore slaves to “obey their earthly masters.” 

“These are examples of how religion and how the Bible was used to justify slavery,” Hohrn said. “So what I’m saying to you today is that religion isn’t always right about things, isn’t always just about things, because people use religion. … We don’t need to put another stain on Mississippi.”

HB 1523 would bar the state from taking action against anyone who discriminates based on their belief that marriage should be between one man and one woman, that sexual relations should be reserved to such a union, or that “male” and “female” refer to someone’s “immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.”

More from HRC on some of the implications: 

Tax-payer funded faith-based organizations could: refuse to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples for provision of critical services including emergency shelter; deny children in need of loving homes placement with LGBT families including the child’s own family member; and refuse to sell or rent a for-profit home to an LGBT person — even if the organization receives government funding. As introduced, H.B. 1523 would also give foster families the freedom to subject an LGBTQ child to the dangerous practice of “conversion therapy,” and subject a pregnant unwed girl to abuse, without fear of government intervention or license suspension. It would even allow individuals to refuse to carry out the terms of a state contract for the provision of counseling services to all eligible individuals, including veterans, based on the counselor’s beliefs about LGBT people or single mothers.

Furthermore, schools, employers and service providers could implement sex-specific dress and grooming standards, as well as refuse transgender people access to the appropriate sex-segregated facilities, consistent with their gender identity — all in conflict with the United States Department of Justice’s enforcement of federal law. H.B. 1523 even legalizes Kim Davis-style discrimination by allowing government employees to abdicate their duties and refuse to license or solemnize marriages for LGBT people. 

 

 

 

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Trump White House to Tell Americans to Wear Cloth Masks in Public to Protect Against Coronavirus Transmission

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The Trump White House is expected to urge Americans to wear cloth face masks when in public to help slow the transmission of coronavirus, in a reversal of current guidelines. The CDC says there is increasing evidence asymptomatic coronavirus carriers may be spreading the virus more than first believed, The Washington Post reports.

But studies going back weeks or longer made clear people who show few or no symptoms are “shedding” more of the virus – spreading it – at a rate higher than some who are fully symptomatic.

“In light of these new data, along with evidence of widespread transmission in communities across the country, CDC recommends the community use of cloth masks as an additional public health measure people can take to prevent the spread of virus to those around them,” the guidance says, according to a copy obtained by The Washington Post.

Social distancing and the stay at home policy are still recommended as the top methods to slow the spread of the virus. The cloth masks would protect others from the virus, not the wearer.

On Wednesday Georgia’s Republican Governor Brian Kemp came under fire for falsely claiming asymptomatic spreading had just been discovered “the last 24 hours.”

Image via Shutterstock

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HERO WHO DID HIS JOB

Navy to Relieve ‘Hero’ Captain Who Urged Help for 100 Sailors With Coronavirus: Report

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The U.S. Navy will relive from duty a nuclear powered aircraft carrier Captain after he sent a letter to his superiors urging help after more than 100 sailors tested positive for coronavirus.

The official reason will be loss of trust and confidence.

“Capt. Brett Crozier, who commands the Roosevelt, an aircraft carrier with a crew of nearly 5,000, will be relieved of his command, but keep his rank and remain in the Navy,” NBC News reports.

We are not at war,” Capt. Crozier wrote in a letter that was subsequently leaked to the media. “Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our sailors.”

On Wednesday the Navy let it be known Capt. Crozier would not be disciplined or discharged.

“The fact that he wrote the letter to his chain of command to express his concerns would absolutely not result in any time of retaliation,” Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly said.

That appears to have changed.

Four Star US Army General Bary McCaffrey (Ret). a former Joint Commander of SOUTHCOM, weighed in yesterday:

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FDA Changes Gay Blood Ban From 12 to 3 Months of No Sex Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

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The Food and Drug Administration has changed its ban on LGBTQ people donating blood, now requiring men who have had sex with men to abstain from sex for three months instead of 12 months before donating blood or plasma.

Plasma donations from those who have coronavirus antibodies are especially vital right now, as this popular HuffPost story shows, given the current pandemic. There are also shortages of blood across the nation.

The FDA’s “loosened” guidelines, which are now in effect due to “the public health emergency related to COVID-19,” are not necessarily permanent. They cover a lengthy list of people who should not donate blood. In addition to men who have had sex with a man or men within the past three months, it recommends a ban of those who fall in to the following categories:

Women with “a history in the past 3 months of sex with a man who has had sex with another man in the past 3 months,” donors with a “history in the past 3 months of syphilis or gonorrhea, or treatment for syphilis or gonorrhea,” donors with a “history in the past 3 months of a tattoo, ear or body piercing,” donors with a “history in the past three months of exchanging sex for money or drugs,” and donors with a “history in the past three months of non-prescription injection drug use.”

The ban on gay men is unscientific and discriminatory, given the ability to test for HIV infection, and given that men who have sex with women can still acquire HIV.

For example, a man who is married to a woman but has random or anonymous sexual encounters regularly with other women is fully eligible to donate blood. A man who is married to a man in a monogamous relationship still cannot.

Calling the new guidelines “imperfect,” GLAAD, which has been working on eliminating the gay blood ban since 2015 issued a statement from its President and CEO, Sarah Kate Ellis saying, “LGBTQ Americans can hold their heads up today and know that our voices will always triumph over discrimination.”

“This is a victory for all of us who raised our collective voices against the discriminatory ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood. The FDA’s decision to lower the deferral period on men who have sex with men from 12 months to 3 months is a step towards being more in line with science, but remains imperfect. We will keep fighting until the deferral period is lifted and gay and bi men, and all LGBTQ people, are treated equal to others.“

Anthony Michael Kreis, a Visiting Assistant Professor of Law at Chicago-Kent College of Law tells NCRM, “I’m glad that the FDA has liberalized their policy, but it does not really address the concerns about the stigma of blood donations and sexual orientation. Is there a good public health justification for excluding HIV-negative men in monogamous same-sex relationships? Is there a science-based rationale for excluding gay and bisexual men who are HIV-negative and using PrEP? These are important questions that need to be answered in the coming weeks because each raise significant questions about what’s driving this policy— the fit seems to be overbroad and, as a consequence, needlessly stigma-perpetuating.”

 

Image by Peltier Chevrolet via Flickr and a CC license

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