What are some examples of businesses that qualify as places of public accommodations?
- Lodging establishments: Hotels, motels, room share services, and bed and breakfasts.
- Refreshments: eating and drinking establishments such as restaurants, bars, nightclubs, food trucks, diners, bakeries, coffee shops, snack shops, and breweries.
- Entertainment and recreation: A place of entertainment or recreation includes a variety of establishments where the public may be provided facilities or services for the purpose of recreation or entertainment such as a dance hall, ice or roller skating rink, adventure guide service, movie theater, concert hall, billiards hall, sports facility, museum, sports and entertainment venue, campground, pool, equestrian facility, bowling alley, shooting range, rock climbing facility, and art gallery.
- Transportation facility: A transportation facility is considered any private provider of transportation services such as a taxi cab, taxi company, pedi cab, carriage, and bicycle vendor.
- Business: A business broadly includes a commercial establishment or person offering goods or services to the public, such as an attorney, doctor, accountant, architect, pharmacist, clothing store, electronics store, furniture store, variety store, hardware store, plumber, electrician, moving service, hospital, florist, grocery store, interior designer, gym, bank, consultant, car dealership, realtor, cleaning service, drug store, information technology provider, dry cleaner, salon, barber, landscaping service, and mechanics.
Won’t this only benefit LGBT people?
No. Broadly, LGBT people will gain the protections that many of us already take for granted. However, a non-discrimination ordinance will have benefits for all people. Mississippi has no state civil rights protections for any group of people. In towns without non-discrimination ordinances, the only way a person can file any sort of discrimination grievance on the basis of race, religion, gender, etc. is by going through the federal court system, which is far more expensive and complex than the municipal court system. In federal court, initial filing fees alone are several hundred dollars and the case duration can last years.
How is this different from the non-discrimination resolution my city passed a few years ago?
A resolution is simply a statement of commitment. It is not legally binding. Only an ordinance written into the city code will allow legal penalties to apply to those who take discriminatory actions.
Will churches have to accept gay and transgender people or get sued and/or lose their tax-exempt status?
No. Under this law, churches, mosques, synagogues and all other houses of worship retain full control over who serves in religious positions (meaning pastors, priests, cantors, etc.), and over the faith messages they convey. Private schools also retain full control over whom they hire to serve in religious positions (such as chaplain or director of campus ministry), and over what they teach regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. This law would not require any church to perform weddings or other sacraments for gay people, against its religious beliefs. It also does not alter any standards for determining whether a religious organization is treated as a tax-exempt charitable organization.
HB 1523 Addendum: What is the impact on NDOs?
HB 1523 is a law passed last year by the Mississippi Legislature. The law is not likely to last long-term because it violates constitutional principles of equal protection, but the law may present problems in the short-term. HB 1523 allows government actors to discriminate against LGBT people (and potentially unmarried heterosexual people, or people of certain religious faiths) in terms of three categories: marriage, sexual activity, and gender identity.
The law may also allow private business to discriminate in certain circumstances, for example, in instances related to same-sex marriage.
The passage of HB 1523 should not discourage non-discrimination efforts. LGBT people have no rights in Mississippi to begin with. In this sense, HB 1523 is in many respects redundant. Passing a non-discrimination ordinance in your hometown will still at the very least protect LGBT individuals in the sectors of housing and employment, which HB 1523 does not mention.
However, it is important to note that non-discrimination ordinances should not be “written around” HB 1523. Protections for transgender individuals and same-sex marriage should still be included in your non-discrimination ordinance, even if for the moment, HB 1523 supersedes them. HB 1523’s days are numbered, and when that law is struck down, all LGBT people will still need inclusive protections.
How do I write my own non-discrimination ordinance for my town?
Writing a non-discrimination ordinance is a highly technical endeavor. To prevent loopholes and make sure all people are protected, the WAAM Campaign has a model non-discrimination ordinance template that can easily be modified to fit your city or municipality. For more information, email us at weareallMS@gmail.com