Mississippi Gov. Signs ‘Horrific’ Anti-LGBT Law Allowing Service Denial To LGBT People

Gov. Phil Bryant announced Tuesday via Twitter that he has signed House Bill 1523 into law, a religious objections bill that many fear will allow discrimination against LGBT people by giving public and private businesses the right to refuse service to gay couples based on the employers’ religious beliefs.

“This 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,” the Republican governor wrote in a statement posted to his Twitter account.

“This bill does not limit any constitutionally protected rights or actions of any citizen of this state under federal or state laws,” Bryant said. “It does not attempt to challenge federal laws, even those which are in conflict with the Mississippi Constitution, as the Legislature recognizes the prominence of federal law in such limited circumstances.”

Gov. Bryant argues that his measure’s stated intention is to protect those who believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman, that sexual relations should only take place inside such marriages, and that male and female genders are unchangeable, reports ABC News.

Furthermore, the bill will allow churches, religious charities and privately held businesses to refuse services to people whose ‘lifestyles’ violate their religious beliefs. “Individual government employees may also opt out, although the measure says governments must still provide services,” ABC News adds.

Some of the state’s largest employers, including Nissan Group of North America, Tyson Food Inc, MGM Resorts International, and Toyota publicly voiced their opposition to the appalling legislation, according to the Human Rights Campaign. “National corporations such as AT&T, IBM, Levi Strauss & Co, MassMutual, General Electric, and Hyatt Hotel Corporations have also expressed their deep concerns about the discriminatory measure.”

Ignoring the growing chorus of opposition to the discriminatory bill, Gov. Bryant quickly signed the bill into law within hours of receiving it.

The Mississippi Economic Council has come out against HB1523:

“As the State Chamber of Commerce for a state that has proven its hospitable and business-friendly approach, MEC opposes efforts that would intentionally or unintentionally prevent Mississippi businesses from implementing and enforcing non-discrimination policies or that would limit diversity and inclusion impacting their customers and employees,” the organization said in a statement. “HB 1523 conflicts with this policy.”

“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. Far from protecting anyone from ‘government discrimination’ as the bill claims, it is an attack on the citizens of our state, and it will serve as the Magnolia State’s badge of shame.”

At least 10 states have passed or considered similar versions of Mississippi’s ‘religious freedom’ bill in response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage. As Time notes, “North Carolina’s law was thought to be the most egregious. But Mississippi refuses to be outdone.”

The Human Rights Campaign outlines the full implications of HB 1523:

Under HB 1523, religion could be used by individuals or organizations to justify discrimination against LGBT people, single mothers, unwed couples, and others. Tax-payer funded faith-based organizations could: refuse to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples for provision of critical services including emergency shelter; deny children in need of loving homes placement with LGBT families including the child’s own family member; and refuse to sell or rent a for-profit home to an LGBT person — even if the organization receives government funding. As introduced, HB 1523 would also give foster families the freedom to subject an LGBTQ child to the dangerous practice of “conversion therapy” or shame a pregnant unwed girl without fear of government intervention or license suspension. It would even allow individuals to refuse to carry out the terms of a state contract for the provision of counseling services to all eligible individuals, including veterans, based on the counselor’s beliefs about LGBT people or single mothers.

Furthermore, schools, employers, and service providers could refuse transgender people access to appropriate sex-segregated facilities consistent with their gender identity — all in direct conflict with the U.S. Department of Justice’s enforcement of federal law. HB 1523 even legalizes Kim Davis-style discrimination by allowing government employees to abdicate their duties and refuse to license or solemnize marriages for LGBT people.