Mississippi has given the nation some good things — such cultural icons as Muddy Waters, William Faulkner, and Tennessee Williams — but it has a well-earned reputation for social conservatism that's continuing to play out in the state legislature. Last week a House committee approved a broad “religious accommodations” bill, which would prevent the state from penalizing businesses and individuals, including state employees and contractors, who discriminate based on certain religious beliefs about marriage, gender, and sexuality. Specifically, the legislation states, “The sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions protected by this act are the belief or conviction that: (a) Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman; (b) Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage; and (c) Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.” Mississippi, by the way, already has one of the nation's strictest Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, often cited as the first true "license to discriminate" law.
Also in Mississippi, the state's abstinence-only sex education law is up for renewal, and it contains language saying homosexuality is illegal, HRC notes. The organization is tracking several other sex-ed bills with anti-LGBT language.
And FYI: Our illustration for Mississippi is the Mammy's Kitchen restaurant, just outside of Natchez on Highway 61 — the famous "blues highway" that took musicians north, mostly to Chicago, and was "revisited" by a Bob Dylan album. Some consider the restaurant's design a racial stereotype, but the eatery has become a popular foodie destination and has been visited by celebrities including Hilary Swank, Craig Robinson, and Linda Hunt, according to Roadside America.