Main | Wednesday, April 02, 2014

MS Gov To Sign "Religious Freedom" Bill

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant declared today that he will sign the so-called "religious freedom bill" that was hurriedly approved by both state chambers in late sessions yesterday.
Critics say the measure legalizes discrimination, giving businesses the right to refuse service based on religious objections. They warned scenarios such as the Colorado cake-shop owner who refused to bake for a gay wedding last year could become commonplace in Mississippi. The American Civil Liberties Union accused lawmakers of ignoring the public outcry against such measures. It noted legislators in other states, including Georgia, Idaho, Maine and Ohio, had rejected similar measures and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed her state's version of the bill in February. "We remain hopeful that courts throughout the state will reject any attempts to use religion to justify discrimination," said Jennifer Riley-Collins, executive director of the ACLU of Mississippi. "Nobody should be refused service because of who they are."
Thus far LGBT and progressive groups have been relatively muted in their responses to the bill compared to their (strangely slow) reactions to the passage of a similar and (ultimately vetoed bill) in Arizona. The groups that have issued objections to the Mississippi bill have noted that the approved version has been stricken of some of the most objectionable portions of the version first introduced. All of those who have responded, however, urged Bryant not to sign. The law is scheduled to go into effect on July 1st and will also add the words "In God We Trust" to the Mississippi state seal.

UPDATE: The Task Force has responded to Bryant's decision.
"We are very disappointed that Mississippi lawmakers have passed this 'license to discriminate' legislation and with Governor Bryant's decision to sign this bill. This new law both cynically uses religion as a smokescreen to justify discrimination and insults people of faith who feel that discrimination is morally wrong. When he signs this bill, businesses in the state of Mississippi could turn away people who are (or are thought to be) lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Most Americans are against discrimination and will be appalled by this new law. The governor decision's sends a clear and extreme message to the country and the world that LGBT people and our straight allies are not welcome in Mississippi."

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