Miss. Religious Freedom Bill Signed Into Law

Governor ignores opposition from LGBT advocates and state businesses
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 5, 2016 2:48 PM CDT
Miss. Religious Freedom Bill Signed Into Law
Protesters call for Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant to veto House Bill 1523, which they says will allow discrimination against LGBT people, during a rally outside the Governor's Mansion on Monday. Bryant signed the bill into law on Tuesday.   (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

On Tuesday, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed HB1523, also known as the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, into law, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports. In doing so, he made it legal for businesses in the state to refuse service "because of a religious opposition to same-sex marriage, extramarital sex, or transgender people," NPR reports. Bryant says he signed the bill in order to protect citizens with "deeply held religious beliefs" and argues it's not discriminatory. Opponents of the bill, of which there were many, disagree. CNN reports the Mississippi Economic Council, the Mississippi Manufacturers Association, Nissan, Tyson Foods, Toyota, AT&T, Levi's, the ACLU, and many more all officially opposed the bill.

Bryant lauds HB1523 for its specificity, pointing out that it won't allow restaurants to refuse to serve a gay diner but will allow restaurants to refuse to host a gay wedding. It also protects state employees who refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses. He says it renews First Amendment rights for religious people while not violating federal law. But opponents argue the bill's wording allows for a broader interpretation. To use the restaurant example, businesses could refuse to serve gay couples celebrating their wedding anniversary, they argue. And it's not just same-sex couples and transgender people who will be affected by the bill. Unwed mothers and people living together outside of wedlock could also be refused service, opponents say. HB1523 goes into effect July 1. (More religious freedom stories.)

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