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They send a signal that the state governments enacting them accept and even embrace the dangerous and harmful notion that discrimination against LGBT people is a legitimate demand of both conscience and religion.

Interviews were primarily conducted by telephone due to the geographic dispersion of the interviewees for the project.

Interviews were conducted in person in Mississippi in November 2017, Tennessee in December 2017, and Michigan, Mississippi, and Tennessee in January 2018. Researchers obtained oral informed consent from interviewees, and notified interviewees why Human Rights Watch was conducting the research and how it would use their accounts, that they did not need to answer any questions, and that they could stop the interview at any time.

In recent years and mostly since 2015, when the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality, numerous states have considered and at least eight US states have enacted new laws that permit people to infringe on the rights of LGBT individuals and their families to the extent they believe that discriminating against them is necessary to uphold their own religious or moral beliefs.

In 2018, lawmakers in at least six other states will consider similar legislation. As has been widely publicized, some would permit people to refuse to participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies or to provide goods and services related to such weddings.

In response to the state’s “license to discriminate” bill, Steve Long displays a sticker welcoming LGBT customers to his restaurant in Jackson, MS, on October 2, 2017. Solis / AP Photo Over the past decade, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people have made significant legal and political gains in the United States, including the freedom to marry.

Despite this progress, federal law does not expressly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in fields like employment, housing, and access to services, and fewer than half of the states offer explicit protections for LGBT people at the state level.Interviewees were given the option of using pseudonyms in published materials for the project; where pseudonyms are used in this report, that is reflected in the footnote citation.As marriage equality became a reality, first in individual states and then nationally, lawmakers proposed allowing those with religious or moral objections to refuse or decline to provide a range of goods and services to same-sex couples.Some laws enable and embolden businesses and service providers to refuse to serve LGBT people, compelling LGBT people to invest additional time, money, and energy to find willing providers; others simply give up on obtaining the goods or services they need.More insidiously, they give LGBT people reason to expect discrimination before it even occurs, and to take extra precautions or avoid scenarios where they might face hostility out of self-preservation.Human Rights Watch conducted the research for this report between August 2017 and January 2018.

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