Miss. bill would protect medical professionals who decline transgender care

The Mississippi Senate has approved House Bill 1523 — a measure that would allow the denial of certain medical services to the LGBT community.  

Under the legislation, known as the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, government officials who hold the religious or moral belief that marriage is between a man and a woman would be allowed to deny marriage licenses to gay couples, according to a Mississippi Public Broadcasting report.

The bill extends protections to private businesses and nonprofit organizations and protects those who decline to participate in psychological, counseling or fertility services based on their religious belief or moral conviction that marriage should be between a man and woman and "sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage."

The bill also protects medical professionals who decline to participate in the provision of treatments, counseling or surgeries related to sex reassignment or gender identity transitioning.

The legislation does include an exception for medical emergencies.

Supporters of the bill believe it protects their right to religious freedom, while opponents argue it promotes discrimination.

Ron Matis, who represents the Mississippi District of the United Pentecostal Church, told MPB the bill is about "letting people know that pastors, people of faith, aren't going to be discriminated on, against, for their sincerely held religious beliefs."

Commenting on the legislation, Erik Flemming with the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi told MPB, "We would like for this bill either to just die or be altered in a way where it doesn't discriminate against the LGBT community."

The legislation will now go back to the House for one more check before it heads to Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, who will likely sign it into law, according to the report.

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