"We don't need to discriminate against anybody, but we certainly don't need to discriminate against our religious people in our first freedom," he said.
Gipson's proposal said government cannot put a substantial burden on the practice of religion without a compelling reason. It said a person whose religious practice has been, or is likely to be, substantially burdened may cite that violation in either suing others or as a defense against a lawsuit.
Critics said the Mississippi bill was still vaguely worded and subject to broad interpretation, and should be killed rather than tweaked.
"The ACLU of Mississippi remains concerned that the status of SB 2681 continues to open the door to discrimination against any group based on religious objections. The study does no more than keep this potential license to discriminate alive," Jennifer A. Riley-Collins, executive director of the state affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement after Wednesday's vote.
Mississippi's Southern Baptists have urged lawmakers to enact the bill. But Wednesday, a letter was circulated from the head of the Mississippi's largest historically black Baptist group urging rejection.
Similar religious-freedom bills were filed this year in several states, including Oklahoma, South Dakota and Tennessee. A bill was withdrawn in Ohio, and similar measures stalled in Idaho and Kansas.
Online: Senate Bill 2681, http://bit.ly/1nOI3iT