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Mississippi's so-called "religious freedom bill," an Arizona-style attempt to make it legal for businesses to refuse customers based on "sincerely held religious beliefs," was thought by many to be dead for the current legislative session. But tonight, with just 72 hours left on the legislative calendar, the state House and Senate both rushed through their debates and approved the bill by wide majorities. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant is expected to sign it.

The ACLU reacts via press release:

 The law could allow individuals and businesses to bring challenges against what they view as substantial government burdens against religion, including challenging existing nondiscrimination laws. Legislatures across the country, including in Georgia, Idaho, Maine, and Ohio, have rejected similar measures. On February 26, 2014, Governor Jan Brewer vetoed Arizona’s version. Bills are still pending in Missouri and Oklahoma. “Even though the Mississippi legislature removed some of the egregious language from Arizona’s infamous SB 1062, we are disappointed that it passed this unnecessary law and ignored the national, public outcry against laws of this nature,” said Eunice Rho, advocacy and policy counsel with the ACLU. “We will continue to fight in state legislatures across the country to ensure that religious freedom remains a shield, not a sword.”

The Human Rights Campaign reacts via press release:

While efforts had previously been made to allay concerns about the scope and breadth of the legislation, the version passed tonight is far-reaching and should be vetoed by the governor. Human Rights Campaign (HRC) State Legislative Director Sarah Warbelow issued the following statement: “While there were many efforts to correct the clearly problematic elements of this legislation, the bill still has the effect of making LGBT people strangers to the law. Before Mississippi has had the opportunity to robustly discuss the lived experiences of LGBT people, this bill would hollow out any non-discrimination protections at the local level or possible future state-wide protections. Just as we’ve seen in other states, this bill is bad for business, bad for the state’s reputation, and most of all, bad for Mississippians. Governor Bryant must veto the measure.”

Despite claims to the contrary by the bill's backers, earlier today a local Christian group made it very clear who the bill is intended to target. From their open threat made to balking GOP members of the Mississippi House: "The Christian Action Commission will work diligently to ensure the blame will be laid at the feet of these 20 alleged Republicans. Approximately 60,000 Baptist households will read about it and know the truth. Our state passed the Defense of Marriage Act by the widest margin of any state."

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