The Mississippi House of Representatives voted today to remove the discriminatory language from the religious freedom bill and set up a committee to study writing a new one. You can read the amendment here. Now the House version has to be reconciled with the Senate version, and that could go all sorts of ways, but I suspect the House version will be adopted.
I think this is a compromise to allow the people who were supporting the original bill to keep the issue in play, and now they have up to a year to build support for some form of religious freedom bill. People who oppose it have the same amount of time to organize. Thanks to everyone who read, liked and shared my posts on this issue, gave me feedback, and helped me on other social media. I’ve made my position on the need for state religious freedom legislation clear. Given where we started, the House bill is reasonable enough, and I’m happy to finally be writing a political post that says something positive about Mississippi.
The House amended this bill because people scrutinized it, and because Mississippians pressured them to change it or vote it down. That says to me we’re making progress. So good job, Mississippi!
I did what I could to defeat this bill because I felt it was the right thing to do, but I’ve also gotten some unexpected personal benefits from it. I’m getting to know the bloggers at Deep South Progressive. I share a few local connections with them, and they do journalism. I’ve had exchanges with both @ACLU_MS and the Campaign for Southern Equality today. @CSElive is now following me on Twitter, and they informed me today that they are coming to Mississippi soon.
I’ve also picked up a quite a bit of information just by digging into this a little, so I’ll add a couple of links below.
These religious freedom bills are partly the result of a nationwide campaign by some well-funded conservative organizations. That’s not surprising, and of course, these aren’t the only groups who work this way. But it is something people need to be aware of if we’re serious about the political autonomy of individual citizens. There’s a difference between a bill that’s actually written by the staff of your state legislator and one that’s emailed from a think tank.
Here’s an article by Robert P. Jones from the Atlantic that delves into changing attitudes about same-sex marriage in the South. It does a good job explaining two factors I’ve touched on, but haven’t thoroughly explored – the cultural shift is driven by young people, and by the fact that so many people now have openly gay friends and family members. It also makes a third point, that southerners are rediscovering the separation of church and state. Here’s his evidence:
Southerners are drawing a distinctionbetween personal moral objections to same-gender sexual relationships and support for public policy that would legally recognize same-sex marriage. While 48 percent of southerners now favor same-sex marriage, only 37 percent of southerners say sex between two adults of the same gender is morally acceptable. To put it bluntly, support for the legality of same-sex marriage outpaces moral approval of same-gender sex by double-digit numbers.
I’m not sure that really proves that we’re taking separation more seriously these days, but it’s a plausible interpretation, and I want it to be true.
I also picked up an article today that says according to a poll conducted last week, 61% of Republicans under 30 support marriage equality. I think that supports my opinion that it’s only a matter of time before we get this done. It’s also one of the few signs I’ve seen over the past 10 years that give me hope for the long-term health of our political system. A generation of Republicans who are more moderate than the ones in charge of their party now would not be a bad thing for the U.S. at all.
– Edited to fix a couple of grammatical issues and add the link to my original editorial.