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HB 1523: “Full of sound and fury Signifying nothing” 

"...a very large, very angry, very powerful creature, one able to snatch away large chunks of our flesh and bone and sinew."

                                                                           
” …a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury Signifying nothing.” — Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5)

 

President John F. Kennedy in his famous rocking chair

President John F. Kennedy in his famous rocking chair

Whether from injuries suffered during World War II or hereditary illness, President Kennedy suffered nearly continuous back pain. His doctor recommended that he sit in rocking chairs, believing that rocking would alleviate the pain. There are hundreds of photos of the 35th president rocking while conducting government business. Kennedy got very little of his legislation through Congress, although he pushed it with notable energy and style until his untimely death.  A comedian of that time suggested that JFK’s legislative agenda was like his rocking chair: “giving a feeling of motion without actually going anywhere.”

That tired old gag came to mind during the week since Governor Phil Bryant ignited a firestorm by signing HB 1523, which protects Mississippi individuals against any action by the state government under certain circumstances.

Specifically, the state of Mississippi cannot, in the future, punish you because you refuse to provide services for persons in same-sex marriages or for persons you suspect of having any kind of sexual relations outside of a conventional marriage between a man and a woman. Fornicators and self-abusers, the state of Mississippi will not in the future abuse those who abuse you! Mississippians may also refuse with impunity to do business with persons they suspect have undergone any procedure to change their original gender.

The official title of the new law is “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act.”

Less than one year ago, on June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in a 5-4 decision that “same-sex” marriages are a fundamental right under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That day, in the ruling on the case styled Obergefell v. Hodges, it became the law in every state of the United States that men may marry men and women may marry women, and that those marriages enjoy the same protection and legal status as traditional marriages between men and women.

There is nothing to be gained by arguing here either for or against the Supreme Court’s decision. Like it or not, it is “settled law.” The legal argument has ended.

It is important to recognize, however, that the court’s decision was deplored by millions of Americans, especially by those who describe themselves as “conservative Christians.” It is also fair to say that many, perhaps a majority, of the people in Mississippi are among those who disagree strongly with the Obergefell v. Hodges decision.

MS Governor Phil Bryant

MS Governor Phil Bryant

Urged on by a wide range of Christian denominations, the state legislature and governor of Mississippi sought a way to somehow give some relief to those offended by the Supreme Court decision. Mississippi lawmakers concocted the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act” in response to those demands from state pulpits.

Those Mississippians opposed to same-sex marriage rejoiced when the governor signed the new law. They believed that they had won a victory, that a blow had been struck for righteousness.

That celebration was countered around the nation by an outcry from those who support the Supreme Court decision. It would not be too far from the literal truth to say that “all hell has broken loose” during the last few days. Entertainers have vowed that they will no longer perform in Mississippi. Other state governments, private corporations and professional associations have threatened that they will not do business in Mississippi or with Mississippians because of their outrage over HB 1523.

Mississippians at "Mississippi in the Park" in NYC Central Park

Mississippians at “Mississippi in the Park” in NYC Central Park

Some estimate that billions of dollars of business that would otherwise have flowed into our state have been lost because of this act by our state government. Yesterday it was announced the big annual “Mississippi Picnic” in Central Park in New York city has been cancelled by those who have sponsored the event for the last 36 years.

The simple fact is that these Mississippians, these sincere and devout Christian people who oppose same-sex marriage have received yet another empty and meaningless gesture from their state government. The gift wrapping is gaudy, though sloppy, and the box is empty.

Here, in one sentence, is what the law provides: it promises that the state of Mississippi will not do in the future what it has never done in the past. That’s it.“Tha-tha-tha-That’s all, folks!”

The state of Mississippi has never penalized anyone, private person or state employee, for failure to do business or provide a service for two people of the same sex who want to get married. It’s never happened, and now they assure that it never will.

Here, on the other hand, is what the law does not do:  it does not in any way relieve Mississippians from obeying the ruling of the United States Supreme Court. If a Mississippi circuit court clerk, for example, refuses to issue a marriage license to two men who want to get married, those two men can still sue that circuit clerk under federal law and they can win. The U.S. Attorney in Oxford can still indict, try and convict that clerk in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi for failure to obey the federal law regarding the rights of homosexual couples.

The state government of Mississippi can and will do the following for you if you are sued or arrested for failure to obey the federal law: nothing, nada, zilch, zero. The governor will not send the National Guard to snatch you from the clutches of a U.S. Marshal or FBI agent who comes to arrest you. Governor Bryant will not send a state trooper or a game warden, not even the convict who cooked his bacon and eggs this morning, to assist you in any way if you violate federal law, including the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage. You will face the awesome power of the government of the United States all by yourself, and good luck to you.

Smart individuals and corporations, smart law enforcement officers, smart public officials in Mississippi are in no way deceived by the phony “rights” or “protections” granted to them by this strutting, chest-beating governor and the smug, puffed up “leadership” in the state legislature.

Like President Kennedy’s famous rocking chair, Mississippi’s “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act” gives an illusion of motion without actually going anywhere. Unfortunately, this rocking chair crafted by Governor Bryant and the state legislature has rocked back hard on the tail of a very angry, very powerful creature, one able to snatch away large chunks of our flesh and bone and sinew.

Whether the beast is good or evil, the state’s highest officials have insulted it, have made it a very dangerous creature while making a cynical, empty gesture to millions of sincere Mississippians–political pandering at its worst. They have exposed us to huge potential losses while pulling the wool over our eyes and, apparently, their own.

Find this hard to believe? Read the entire text of the law signed by the governor. Read it carefully, line by line at: http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/documents/2016/pdf/HB/1500-1599/HB1523SG.pdf

Here are links to a sampling of thoughts by Union County people on both sides of this controversial issue:

HUDSON HICKMAN, MOTION PICTURE PRODUCER

MARGARET ROGERS STATE REPRESENTATIVE, UNION COUNTY, DISTRICT 14

GREG SPENCER SENIOR PASTOR, FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH, NEW ALBANY

GREGORY SMITHASSOCIATE PASTOR, FIRST UNITED METHODIST CHURCH OF NEW ALBANY

ELDER ROGER BROWNING PASTOR, CLEVELAND STREET  PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

PHYLLIS STANFORD, CIRCUIT CLERK OF UNION COUNTY MS

 

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3 Comments on HB 1523: “Full of sound and fury Signifying nothing” 

  1. Live and let live. #Ilovestraightpeopleandgaysbelieveitornot // April 13, 2016 at 2:30 PM //

    Kudos to Greg Spencer for standing for God’s unchanging word. In a world where feelings are the premise on which we define what is correct and wrong, I am glad there is a man in New Albany who is brave enough to speak the truth in love. Everyone does NOT have to agree in order to show love and mutual respect. And if we were to break this piece of law down into elementary terms, since that seems to be the mentality of everyone who proclaims to decipher and translate it on social media, black bakers will not be penalized for refusing to bake a KKK celebratory cake, just like a christian won’t be for refusing to whip up a gay couple’s cake. Where does common sense and morality meet? The same goes with all of these bathroom laws going into effect. Common sense: I don’t want my seven year old girl in the bathroom with a 250 lb man in a dress who “feels” like a woman and was born the wrong gender. Wake up, America. Liberals feel the governor was pandering to us “christian fundamentals,” but the rest of the world is pandering to activist groups defining what is correct and civil based upon their “feelings.”

  2. John Strong // April 14, 2016 at 4:54 PM //

    What’s interesting about this bill is it defines the closely held beliefs. Two things: one the state is writing beliefs into law, and two, if I discriminate based on the person being a usurer, well, that belief is not covered by the law. The class targeted for discrimination is defined in the bill is gay and trans. This is why it won’t get past the court.

  3. I can truly say that in 64 years this day finds me the most conflicted. I know there is much concern and publicity regarding the bill signed by our Governor yesterday.
    How do we peacefully operate in a world where each person in charge has the right to challenge our belief system? Not just regarding our beliefs on lifestyle, but our beliefs on many subjects. Not just our current life, but anything that may come to light about all our years leading up to the moment we desire their service. How safe are we from visible hatred when those around us are allowed to base their decisions of service on just their belief with little or no regard for our belief?
    Is a difficult, if not impossible task, to find the perfect person having not experienced some or all of the life decisions covered by this bill.
    The media is making this only about gay marriage and the right of business owners to refuse service. Dig deeper. We could all be in trouble when seeking service with a law in place giving others the right to judge us according to, not necessarily, God’s standards, but what they perceive to be God’s standards.
    We are in a quandary for sure. Christians have been bashed by the liberal media for wanting the right to believe and practice their beliefs, gays and lesbians have been bashed by Christian media for wanting their lifestyle,Christians bashed by gays and lesbians for not believing in their lifestyle, lesbians and gays bashed by Christians for living their lifestyle.
    I could easily be defined as a fence sitter by some. Not so based on what I understand the Bible to teach me regarding my fellow man,woman,and child. I can love the loveable no matter their choices, I can love the unlovable because they need love the most. I can seek solace with those I know love me and accept me with all my flaws.
    We cannot and will not be able to force our beliefs on others. We can and should conduct ourselves in a manner making others respect our beliefs and seeing we can love through a God greater than us. To me this fosters the perfect ground for being able to agree to disagree without missing out on a person we may enjoy having in our life.
    This is long and has rambled for sure, allowing the quandary to continue.
    I leave you with this: To my Straight, Gay, Lesbian, Black, White, Hispanic, Mixed Marriage, Non Mixed Marriage, Christian, Non-Christian, Divorced, Never Divorced, Single Parent, Non-Parent,and Whatever Walk of life friends. I will love you until you ask me to stop loving you. You are part of the fabric of my life and I think it a beautiful fabric, for it makes me happy.
    Love to all.

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