Opinion: HB 1523 violates basic human rights

Posted on Oct 5 2017 - 8:00am by Jaz Brisack

Thanks to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Mississippi is once again vying for the title of “most regressive state in the country.”

Last summer, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves issued a 60-page opinion that temporarily blocked the notorious House Bill 1523 from going into effect. Last week, the circuit court decided that discrimination does not violate the Constitution and that this infamous law will be enforced starting Friday.

This law is a violation of basic human rights and dignity. It is an all-out attack on the LGBTQ community. It devalues and excludes from society anyone who does not adhere to a heteronormative and evangelical Christian lifestyle. It allows discrimination in hiring, issuing marriage licenses, granting adoption rights, renting, dispensing health care and much more.

Foster parents would be able to subject LGBTQ youth to abuses such as the dangerous and medically shunned “conversion therapy,” while state counseling programs could be withheld from LGBTQ individuals, including veterans.

Women — this applies to us, as well. Many schools, businesses, health providers (such as Baptist Memorial Hospital) and other groups are now allowed to police our reproductive choices, outfits and lives. Our doctors can legally refuse to prescribe us birth control. Our bosses can force us to wear makeup, pantyhose or high heels. Religious schools can forbid us to wear pants. Our employers can fire us for using birth control or having an abortion. Remember, all the businesses that can deny service to people can also discriminate against their employees.

Even straight men aren’t off the hook. For men and women alike, premarital or extramarital sex can be forbidden. Hooked up with someone out of wedlock? Gotten a divorce? A single parent? Well, someone’s “sincerely held” religious belief can be used against you, too.

This unjust and immoral law is a victory for alt-right, regressive hate groups, like the state legislature, and their ringleaders, like the governor. Hopefully, it will only serve to catalyze local resistance.

This setback must mean that Mississippians stand stronger in solidarity with each other, that we organize around equality and force our cities and towns to pass non-discrimination ordinances. That we boycott businesses, including national chains like Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby, that do not serve all people regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or any other factor and spread anti-LGBTQ and anti-woman sentiment. That we force a repeal of this hateful law and push for the passage of policies that promote equality and love for everyone.

Perhaps it will also serve to boost sales for the band that rose up in protest a year ago, aptly named F*** Phil Bryant. Its album features songs with lyrics like, “I’m a good ol’ boy/ With a heart of hate/ Heritage is blood/ Smeared all over this state.”

Another unlikely beneficiary might just be the Satanic Temple, which has noted that the “religious freedom” defense should apply to it, too. Accordingly, says founder Lucien Greaves, a bakery that refuses to bake a cake for a same-sex couple should instead be obligated to make one honoring Satan.

At least this solves our next protest’s playlist and catering problems. Now, let’s organize around the real issues.

Jaz Brisack is a junior general studies major from Oxford.