Mississippi’s never been known for welcoming queer people, but the state just outdid itself. This month, one of the most sweeping anti-LGBT laws in the country went into effect. Despite the best efforts of civil rights leaders to hold it back, it’s now legal for individuals, businesses and government officials to deny any service to any person they think might be queer.
And that’s only the beginning.
The Mississippi anti-LGBT law is dangerous bigotry
The Mississippi law goes beyond just calling out LGBT people as specific targets of discrimination. It allows anyone to refuse services to straight people who they suspect have had sex outside of marriage. It’s hard to believe it could be real — but it is.
The law is called HB 1523, and it covers everything from housing to education to medical care to government services. Queer people never had many protections in Mississippi, but the passage of this bill specifically gives a green light to discriminatory practices.
Mississippi isn’t alone in passing such draconian policies. A few years before marriage equality became the law of the land, conservative activists could sense that they were on the losing side of history. So at the 2014 Value Voters Summit, organizers plotted to pass bills around the country that could bypass marriage equality.
The laws, which have been going into effect all over the country, are simple enough. Rather than ban marriage equality, they prohibit any punishment for people who discriminate against same-sex couples. In other words, LGBT couples can get married — they just can’t expect equal treatment.
Sometimes, these “license to discriminate” laws attract enough attention that there’s a public outcry. Other times, legal advocates intervene and try to push back. In Mississippi, lawyers who fought for the freedom to marry are now fighting to prevent HB 1523 from sticking around. But until they get a ruling, the law is in effect statewide.
A national version of the Mississippi anti-LGBT law could be coming soon
Even worse, similar policies are under consideration at the federal level. Every since Republicans came to power, top federal officials have been pushing for a nationwide “license to discriminate.” That includes Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the Department of Justice, who recently issued guidelines that are vague enough to open the door to a national “turn away the gays” policy.
That means that even if you live in a state with nondiscrimination protection, you could soon lose any guarantee of safety. You could be evicted for being gay, or expelled from a public school. You could be refused a ride in an ambulance when you need medical care. You could be denied a home loan, fired or kicked off of a bus.
Options are limited
But queer Americans aren’t out of options when it comes to protecting themselves. While attorneys fight to have these laws declared unconstitutional, many other countries have permissive immigration policies. If you’re a skilled worker, Canada has an express entry program. Norway’s Svalbard requires no residence permit or visa. And New Zealand offers work residence visas for many professions.
But you may not have to move to another country to see an improvement in conditions in America. Many experts project a military coup could force the current administration from power.
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