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Travel alert issued for LGBT visitors to Mississippi

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GetEQUAL, a national grassroots social justice organization advocating for LGBT concerns, issued a travel alert for LGBT visitors to the State of Mississippi in response to the possible passage of legislation that potentially pits gay rights against religious freedoms.

Mississippi Senate Bill 2681, called the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed the state Senate unanimously on January 31 and is moving through the state's House.

The bill is similar to one in Arizona that was recently vetoed by the governor there and made national headlines, according to an article from the Associated Press on GulfLive.com

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBT advocacy organization is asking that the Mississippi bill be revised to ensure that discrimination against LGBT is not allowed under the law.

"While we believe that existing statutes and case law are sufficient to address the protection of religious freedom, if the legislature moves forward on this bill, they have a simple solution for their actions to match their rhetoric," Human Rights Campaign's state legislative director, Sarah Warbelow, said in a news release Wednesday. "To ensure LGBT people are not targeted for discrimination, we call on legislators to adopt language that explicitly preserves civil rights protections in any effort to protect religious freedom."

For its part, GetEQUAL, went further in its criticism of the bill, saying that LGBT visitors to the state could be in danger of experiencing discrimination.

"The State of Mississippi does not currently protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender ('LGBT') people from being legally ejected from their hotel rooms or other places of public accommodation, and is on the cusp of passing legislation that would give business owners even more latitude to legally discriminate against minority groups," according to a press release from the group.

The group has advised the following for LGBT travelers:

Those who are required to travel to Mississippi are encouraged to take the following precautions:

- Avoid traveling alone in the state.

- Only book travel at hotels which have policies prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

- Visit only known LGBT-friendly establishments, including restaurants, bars and venues.

- Be aware of your surroundings and adopt other appropriate safety measures to protect yourself while traveling.

GetEQUAL Mississippi will continue to monitor this situation and update travelers as needed.

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