The fight over religious freedom and LGBT discrimination is spreading through the South like wildfire.
Republican Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed a bill Tuesday that protects people who refuse service because of their sincerely held religious beliefs on premarital sex, gender and traditional marriage, even as other southern states have recently faced tough opposition to similar legislation, The Clarion-Ledger reports.
The Mississippi law, HB1523, specifically says that people can refuse service based on their belief that sex belongs within marriage, that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and that gender corresponds with your anatomical gender at birth. Hypothetically, the bill would protect florists who refused to service gay weddings or government employees like Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple based on her religious beliefs.
Republicans and Democrats have argued over how far the bill’s language allows the refusal of service to go, and likely only time will tell. LGBT advocates were outraged at the bill, calling it discriminatory and promoting #NoHateInOurState.
“This is a sad day for the state of Mississippi and for the thousands of Mississippians who can now be turned away from businesses, refused marriage licenses, or denied housing, essential services and needed care based on who they are,” Jennifer Riley-Collins, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, said in a statement. “This bill flies in the face of the basic American principles of fairness, justice and equality and will not protect anyone’s religious liberty.”
Bryant said the bill “merely reinforces the rights which currently exist to the exercise of religious freedom as stated in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”
I have signed House Bill 1523. Full statement: pic.twitter.com/00DbgQADFt
— Phil Bryant (@PhilBryantMS) April 5, 2016
Mississippi is not the only state facing this battle. Georgia’s legislature passed a similar bill in March, but the state’s governor vetoed it after a slew of large businesses in the state voiced their opposition. North Carolina’s governor signed a bill in March banning ordinances that allow transgender people to use restrooms that correspond with their “new” gender, but now the state is entangled in a lawsuit with LGBT groups. Mississippi may face similar legal action for its new law.
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