Senate committee passes bill protecting people from religious discrimination

Senate committee passes bill protecting people from religious discrimination

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - A bill passed Tuesday in the Senate committee that will protect people with religious beliefs from being discriminated against.

However, opponents of House Bill 1523 think it is aimed at discriminating against the LGBT community.

The bill defines marriage as the union between one man and one woman. Sen. Chris McDaniel said the goal is to protect individuals and businesses from getting discriminated against for their beliefs.

"These individuals, pastors, business owners whoever should not have to choose to have to violate their conscience or have the iron fist of government come down on them," McDaniel said.

House Speaker Philip Gunn filed this bill after a Kentucky clerk was put in jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.  McDaniel said this bill will prevent things like this from happening.

"The state should not be allowed to punish someone simply for their deeply held religious beliefs that runs counter to the very founding of this country," McDaniel said.

Nathan Martin, president of the Spectrum Center, an organization for LBGT individuals said the bill makes him worried about LGBT people in the work force.

"Not that many people understand what it's like to have to hide part of yourself when you go for a job or apply to find work somewhere," Martin said.

House Bill 1523 protects employment-related decisions when it comes to hiring and firing individuals if their beliefs are not consistent with their business.

"You are just trying to make a living and you find out your boss doesn't like LGBT, lesbian, gay and suddenly you're very afraid that your boss is going to find out," Martin said.

The house passed the bill in February with an 80 to 39 vote and the bill is currently on the Senate floor.