In Mississippi, House Bill 1523, also known as the Religious Liberty Accommodations Act, also known as the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, goes into effect this week. It explicitly legalizes discrimination if it is motivated by one of three beliefs: that marriage is a union between one man and one woman, that sexual relations can take place only within such a marriage, and that gender is an immutable biological characteristic. The law was passed last year and immediately blocked by a federal judge, but last week a circuit court reversed the ruling. Doctors, lawyers, and adoption agencies, among others, are now licensed to discriminate on the basis of sexual and gender identity.
Mississippi’s is the harshest of a recent wave of so-called religious-freedom laws; its enactment is only the latest blow to the rights of L.G.B.T. Americans in what has felt like a year of injuries. In February, the Trump Administration rescinded protections allowing transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice. In May, President Trump signed an executive order directing his Attorney General to support and defend religious-freedom laws like the one in Mississippi. In July, Trump tweeted out a ban on transgender service members. In September, the Justice Department filed a Supreme Court brief in support of a Colorado baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. This month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued detailed guidelines based on Trump’s religious-freedom executive order and, separately, instructed U.S. Attorneys to stop interpreting federal law as protecting transgender employees from discrimination on the basis of sex. This timeline is probably missing something; reversals in L.G.B.T. rights have been unremitting.