Mississippi lawmakers on opposite sides of 'Equality Act' debate

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - The U.S. House passed legislation May 17 that would federally protect the civil rights of LGBT people by prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill passed 236-173.

Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS) says the Equality Act is an anti-religion bill. (Source: Gray DC)

The Mississippi delegation was split along party lines. The so-called Equality Act was primarily supported by Democrats.

Mississippi's 4th District congressman, Steven Palazzo, a Republican, says the name of the bill sounds nice, but it would, among other things, require healthcare providers to perform services that conflict with their religious beliefs. He said it would also have other detrimental consequences.

"It would have been harmful to women athletic programs, not just in high school, but in college, because it would allow a biological male that identifies as a female to actually compete in those sports," said Palazzo. "Again, opening up the locker rooms, the bathrooms, to males identifying themselves as females."

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) voted 'yes' because he says he believes all Americans, regardless of race, sex, identity, deserve federal protection.

"Everybody in America should be treated the same regardless of race, creed, national origin, sexual orientation," said Thompson. "It's just who we are. And it's the maturing of this country to recognize it."

Republicans said the bill would jeopardize religious freedom by requiring acceptance of a particular ideology about sexuality and sexual identity.

The bill faces a more uncertain future in the U.S. Senate.

Watch the one-on-one interviews above.

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