Friday, February 01, 2008

Mississippi Lawmakers Discriminate Against 'Obese' Eating At Restaurants

Fat people no longer welcome dining out in Mississippi?

As someone with a Master of Arts degree in Public Policy and Government, I've come across quite a bit of dopey legislation on the local, state, and federal government level over my years of studying and examining many different proposed bills. But Mississippi House Bill No. 282 that was drafted by two Republicans and a Democrat and submitted to the Mississippi House of Representatives today might just take the cake for the most insane obesity-fighting legislation of all-time.

The "Three Blind Mice" of Mississippi: Mayhall, Read, and Shows

In an attempt to respond to the rising obesity crisis happening in the state of Mississippi right now where they earned the dubious distinction as the first state in the U.S. to surpass 30 percent obesity rates in 2007 (30.6 percent), state House of Representatives members W. T. Mayhall, Jr. and John Read, both Republicans, and Democrat Bobby Shows thought it would be prudent to LEGISLATIVELY require restaurant owners to discriminate against fat people wanting to eat at their establishment. I kid you not, that's what the bill says and they are DEAD SERIOUS (hat tip to Regina Wilshire for telling me about this one)!

The "Three Blind Mice" of Mississippi, as I have dubbed Mayhall, Read, and Shows, go on to propose in their bill that the Mississippi Department of Health in conjunction with Mississippi's Council on Obesity would set the criteria for establishing what the weight limit will be for patrons wishing to dine at a restaurant anywhere within the state borders (ostensibly using the overused and irrelevant body mass index to determine whether someone is obese or not). Strict compliance with this law will be required of the restaurants or else the state "may revoke the permit of any food establishment that repeatedly violates the provisions of this section." EEEEEK!

Have these state lawmakers completely lost their marbles?! Besides the obvious discrimination against the obese that is explicitly written into this legislation, this would also put restaurant employees in the sticky position of trying to determine if someone is too fat to be served or not. What are they gonna do, put a scale at the front door a la "The Biggest Loser" before you can walk through the dining room area to determine if you qualify to eat there or not?! Have the "Three Blind Mice" of Mississippi thought through all of the unintended consequences that such a law would pose on restaurant owners and their employees? Can you say LAWSUIT CITY?!

Think about it for just a moment, though. What's gonna happen to obesity rates in Mississippi if fat people are not allowed to eat in public places anymore? Do the "Three Blind Mice" of Mississippi think these people will go home and eat any better? HA! Not hardly with all the high-carb junk foods so easily accessible these days. Believe me, I know because that's how I ate when I was 410 pounds--Little Debbie snack cakes, Ramen noodles, Chef-Boyardee cans, potato chips, and soda, soda, soda! We can't lay the blame for obesity on restaurants. They're just serving a need.

How about all those restaurants which seem to keep growing as fast as the grass around my septic tank? If the demand wasn't there by people wanting to spend money to eat out, then they wouldn't be in business. But now you've got local lawmakers in Los Angeles who want a moratorium on new fast food restaurant development to deal with obesity. Punishing restaurants for making fat people is like pointing the finger of blame at schools for not teaching children (where is individual choice and accountability anymore, hmmm?).

According to House Bill No. 282, this law would be in effect for any food establishment, including restaurants, bars, bowling alleys, etc., within the state of Mississippi with at least 5 seats for customers to refuse service to "any person who is obese." The definition of that will be provided by the government in the form of "written materials that describe and explain the criteria for determining whether a person is obese." The restaurant management and staff will then need to "rely on the criteria for obesity in those written materials when determining whether or not it is allowed to serve food to any person."

If somehow this bill were to be passed and signed into law by Republican Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (I sincerely doubt it, but crazier things have happened!), then it would "take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2008." And it would then set a very bad precedent for any future legislation in other states or on the national level that would turn democracy and freedom on its head in favor of Communist policies that have led to the eventual failure of nearly every other country that has ever implemented such tactics on their people. I don't say something like that lightly, but this is harmful to what we as a nation of free people believe in!

We've already seen the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services attempt on the federal level to get restaurants to cut their portions and calories and cities like New York banning trans fats in the restaurants there. But people over the age of 18 are adults and can make decisions about what to do for themselves without the government stepping in to act as their "supernanny." We don't need the government telling us what we can do with our lives, where we are allowed to eat, and what we are permitted to put inside of our mouths. That's OUR personal responsibility and it is absolutely reprehensible that Reps. Mayhall, Read, and Shows are that ignorant about liberty in a nation that was founded on such principles.

What would happen to a restaurant like Two Fat Ladies Glasgow if it were located in Mississippi? Would the owners have to steer clear of their own restaurants? And how about this: what about the obese servers, cooks, busboys, and even managers who work in Mississippi restaurants? Would they be allowed to work there if they are fat or would they be denied employment based on their weight (keep in mind most restaurant employees eat the food served by the restaurant on their break)? Have the "Three Blind Mice" of Mississippi even bothered to think this through?

You know, according to BMI, I'm officially an "obese" person. Especially since I've been lifting weights, my BMI has actually gone up a little with the extra muscle mass so I would be refused service at a restaurant in Mississippi if I attempted to dine there. But anyone who looks at me wouldn't think I'm fat. And the same goes for Michael Jordan and other athletes who are "obese" according to BMI but far from it! It's precisely why legislation like this is not just ill-advised, but created by people who are just plain ignorant. With all due respect to these Mississippi lawmakers, the people who elected you demand much better than this kind of crap!

One final thought: This one act of legislation would totally obliterate the highly-competitive restaurant industry in Mississippi because you've taken away a very large (no pun intended!) portion of their customer base. Sure, leaner people and the slightly overweight will still frequent restaurants to give them people to feed, but will prices have to go up in order to make the necessary margins to remain profitable? These "Three Blind Mice" of Mississippi don't have a clue about the restaurant business and should keep their meddling little hands out of it. It's not the government's job to tell ANY business who they can and can't serve.

Can we help the "Three Blind Mice" of Mississippi see the light?

Let's let W. T. Mayhall, Jr., John Read, and Bobby Shows know what we think about their insane bill to discriminate against "obese" people eating at restaurants. And ESPECIALLY IF YOU LIVE IN THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, you need to contact them as well as Gov. Haley Barbour to express your concerns about this well-intentioned, but poorly executed legislation. Here's how you can contact each of these men:

W. T.
Haley Barbour--Call toll free 1-877-405-0733

Be courteous, but firm that this kind of legislation is unacceptable in the United States of America and that you will not tolerate such trampling of the rights of citizens and businesses in a country that is the very symbol of freedom for the rest of the world. They need to hear from tens of thousands of Americans who care about what this country stands for so the message will come through loud and clear that this kind of thing does not happen in a nation of free people--fat or otherwise!

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Blogger iambeth493 said...

This is truly amazing. This has to be one of the most idiotic things Ive ever heard.And I thought the smoking ban in bars was silly. This really takes the cake.

2/02/2008 8:12 AM  
Blogger Mindy said...

So what's to stop these supposed obese people from ordering take out, or just going through the drive through? Are they going to mandate weigh stations for the cars? I think this would take a chunk (no pun intended, either)out of their tourism as well. I am not obese but the idea of someone sizing me up when I go to a restaurant makes me squirm.

2/02/2008 9:53 AM  
Blogger Tiffany Ludwig said...

You have got to be kidding me! This is the most ridiculous thing that I have ever heard. And to use BMI as the deciding factor. Wow. Aren't there some celebrities who are considered obese according to BMI, because it does not take into account muscle mass? You can bet I am sending my carefully worded, as to not be ugly, thoughts in the direction of the "Three Blind Mice."

2/02/2008 10:28 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

Share your responses to them here too! :)

2/02/2008 11:41 AM  
Blogger Cate said...

This is frightening. Its criminal to discriminate against obese people by not serving us food in a restaurant that could conceivably be healthier (salads and steak, anyone?) than if we were at home eating a bag of chips for dinner. And then giving us the media mantra: 'the low-fat diet is the only thing that will help you, why don't you have the willpower to stick with it' about causing depression, anxiety, and more eating of junk food.
Here in California, the North County Times on 01/08/2008 had this headline: "State proposed to take control of home temps". The CA utilities want new homes to be built with radio-controlled thermostats so that they can turn off the home owner's heat or air conditioning as the utility sees fit. There would be no over-ride and no provision for health reasons.
So, are State-run cameras in the kitchen and neighborhood snitches next?

2/02/2008 11:57 AM  
Blogger Alex said...


There's a reason we call it "People's Republic of Californ-iya". Anyone who values their liberty is already planning their move OUT of that place. I did 6 years ago.

2/02/2008 7:53 PM  
Blogger Lora said...

There isn't a chance this will ever pass. This however should be considered a wake-up call (a bad call) to the residents of Mississippi they have the highest rate of obesity in the nation and has been that way for over 20 years!

Report Finds Mississippi Has 1st Highest Rate of Adult Obesity in U.S.; National Policy Paralysis Threatens to Make Problem Worse

2/02/2008 10:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is disgusting, but I'm really not surprised with some of the other things that are happening. Next will be health insurances, who will refuse to insure people that aren't "perfect". I have a friend who had to enter "wellness" programs to participate in her company's insurance program. Thanks for keeping us alert to things like this.

2/02/2008 10:33 PM  
Blogger Mardee said...

While I agree it's a stupid piece of legislation, and I would be very surprised if it passed, there is no way it would ever be enforced. The minute it passed the state legislature, lawsuits would be filed against the new law by countless individuals and groups. It's completely discriminatory, it targets a specific group, and while it wouldn't merit the same standards as a discriminatory law against certain racial groups, it would not be able to meet the bare minimum standards required by the Constitution.

I wouldn't worry about it - there's not a chance in hell that this will pass.

On another note, April mentioned that health insurance companies are refusing to insure people who aren't "perfect." I find that interesting, since most insurance companies (at least here in Ohio) refuse to pick up the tab for any obesity programs, unless it meets very strict criteria. And by obesity programs, I mean any legitimate program to lose weight. I find that ironic.

2/03/2008 9:16 AM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

I agree it doesn't have a chance of passing because Gov. Barbour would never sign it into law, but the fact that these "Three Blind Mice" in the Mississippi statehouse think they can even SUGGEST such legislation and think it's logical and effective greatly disturbs me. What's wrong with these people?! Have they gone COMPLETELY bonkers on us or what? I think we know the answer to that question because it's happening in Washington, DC, too.

2/03/2008 12:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a quick clarification...I didn't say health insurances were refusing to insure...I said that might be next. (And my friend was required to take the "wellness" program by her company, not the insurance company.)

2/03/2008 5:31 PM  
Blogger diamondwife said...

Wasn't there a guy on Biggest Loser who, among many other reasons, wanted to lose weight so he could qualify for his health insurance? Health insurance already discriminates, and not just on weight.

and as I said on Jimmy's message board...

WHat about if the obese person were going to choose healthy items? But, thene, who would decide what healthy was. That is a can of worms that should not be opened...Personal responsibility folks, personal responsibility

2/03/2008 9:06 PM  
Blogger Care said...

To the "Three Blind Mice" of Mississippi

Your proposal to set a weight limit for patrons wishing to dine out that are considered obese sickened me. I have been so disguised all day over what I heard on the news today. We here in America - did I just say America - how so many in the government have forgotten what that means - well we here in America have our civil liberty's and it's people like you who think you have the right to discriminate. You saddend so my hearts of American's today with your gross misuse of your office which you hold. I am not obese, but when I saw the way the news made a mockery out of those who are was appauling and I hold you responsible. Just think how many lives you impacted, it's hard enough to be overweight with all that comes with it, the low self-esteem, discrimination etc... but for you to make a bill that puts these people in even more danger of depression, suicide, discrimination was what I might consider a terriost attack on your own American people - the obese ones. How horrible of a person - and yes I am talking to you - may you be judged not only in the Lords eyes but in the eyes of the American people as one of our Country's most dishonerable people. I can't not even carry on with this email because the things I want to say to a man like you would make me just as bad as you. And my parents didn't teach me to be that way.

Of course I did think - maybe you are using this bill as a smoke and mirror's bill, so that you can sneak something else that you are working on passing - because this is just the kind of person I believe you to be.

2/04/2008 11:30 PM  
Blogger Didirina said...

Jimmy, the answer to your questions "What's wrong with these people?! Have they gone COMPLETELY bonkers on us or what?" is revealed on the website: "Increase in sugar...decrease in brain function!!!... Long term effects of increase in blood sugar namely blindness, malfunction of the kidneys are known. But what about their immediate effects?? The researchers of Virginia have now come out with astonishing details that a raise in the blood sugar decreases the brain function.

2/06/2008 11:19 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

This is obviously a publicity stunt. They can't seriously believe this would be a good idea. But it does stir up some awareness... Case in point - I'm reading about it on this blog. :)

2/06/2008 11:50 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

True, Jennifer, it has stirred up a lot of publicity, but to what end? What would be the purpose of drawing attention this way? What are they trying to prove if it is merely a publicity stunt? Anyone?

2/06/2008 11:52 PM  
Blogger Didirina said...

Yes, they certainly did want to stir the pot, but they're getting a lot of animosity in return. Here's a quote from an article on Feb. 5:

"The lawmakers who sponsored Bill No. 282 say they're not trying to discriminate against the overweight in Mississippi, they're trying to start a dialogue about how to fight the problem of obesity in the Magnolia State."

Start a dialogue? They couldn't think of any other way to take action? Maybe these lawmakers are really are as clueless as they sound. Is it possible that they really have never heard of Livin' La Vida Low-Carb? The poor guys are living in the dark. Jimmy, maybe you could drop 'em a line and help them out?

Mississippi is also planning to enact a law that will mandate physical activity for grade school kids. I have no problem with kids exercising, but if they think it'll solve the weight problem, they'll be sadly disappointed.

2/07/2008 7:24 AM  

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