Following in the footsteps of other “religious freedom” bills before it, the Mississippi version of the legislation was effectively neutered Wednesday.
The Jackson Clarion-Ledger reported the state House voted to form a study committee on the issue rather than approve the Senate-passed bill. The bill is now punted back to the Senate, which can either reject it, agree to it or propose negotiations. The committee’s findings would be due at the end of the year.
The Mississippi bill might have been the religious freedom movement’s best — and perhaps last — chance to get a broad bill signed into law, making the vote a significant blow to the effort. The only bill to clear a full state legislature was vetoed last month by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R). A Kansas bill cleared that state’s House, but was dismissed by the Senate. Mississippi’s bill was the last existing legislation to pass at least one chamber of a state legislature this year.
Bills in Ohio and Tennessee were formally pulled after the controversy over Arizona’s bill brought attention to other states’ proposals. According to TPM’s research, legislation in Georgia and Missouri is still technically on the docket, but hasn’t been touched since before Brewer’s veto — which could go down as the “religious freedom” movement’s high water mark now that other bills are struggling to find momentum in its wake.
The same forces that thwarted Arizona’s bill — namely, civil rights and private business groups — were also working against Mississippi’s proposal. The state’s economic council had lobbied House leaders to gut the Senate bill by removing the language that gay rights advocates warned would legitimize discrimination.