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Mississippi Lawmakers Discriminate Against 'Obese' Eating At Restaurants

Posted Feb 04 2008 10:22am

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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