Today, GetEQUAL Mississippi — a statewide grassroots social justice organization working toward the full equality of all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Mississippians — issued a “travel alert” to any LGBT person planning travel to the the state. The alert was issued because the group says that Mississippi is “on the cusp” of passing Senate Bill 2681 — the so-called “Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act” — through the House, which will then go to the governor for signature or veto.
Similar bills have been introduced in other states across the country, and all have failed to pass. A nearly identical bill was passed through the Arizona legislature, only to be vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer last week. Civil rights and legal groups across the country have denounced these “license to discriminate” bills as unconstitutional.
“This bill is progressing at a very rapid rate, making my beautiful state a potentially dangerous place for anyone perceived as ‘different’ from the right-wing extremists who have crafted this bill,” said Zach Magee, an organizer with GetEQUAL Mississippi and a Mississippi native. “While the LGBT community — including both residents and visitors — will be negatively impacted by this bill, it is also a license to discriminate against any group seen as ‘different,’ including women, racial or ethnic minorities, or immigrants. Religious freedom, in my eyes, does not mean blatant discrimination of any kind — unfortunately, discrimination is a fundamental part of this bill.”
In response to a unanimous Senate vote for this bill and the swift movement of the bill to the Mississippi House, GetEQUAL Mississippi has issued the following travel alert for all LGBT people planning travel to Mississippi. This extends to families, tourists, casino travelers, meeting planners, hotel staff, convention-goers, business travelers, and all others who might be considering travel to the area.
TRAVEL ALERT – MISSISSIPPI
GetEQUAL Mississippi alerts those traveling to the state of a continued risk of discrimination based upon sexual orientation and/or gender identity. The State of Mississippi does not currently protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (“LGBT”) people from being legally ejected from their hotel rooms or other places of public accommodation, and is on the cusp of passing legislation that would give business owners even more latitude to legally discriminate against minority groups.
Those who are required to travel to Mississippi are encouraged to take the following precautions:
• Avoid traveling alone in the state.
• Only book travel at hotels which have policies prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
• Visit only known LGBT-friendly establishments, including restaurants, bars and venues.
• Be aware of your surroundings and adopt other appropriate safety measures to protect yourself while traveling.
GetEQUAL Mississippi will continue to monitor this situation and update travelers as needed.