Today, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed House Bill 1523, a sweeping piece of legislation that gives both public and private businesses the ability to openly discriminate against LGBT people, into law.
The so-called “Religious Liberty Accommodations Act" successfully made its way through Mississippi's state Senate last week and only needed Bryant's signature to go into effect. In the wake of the bill's signing, businesses citing religious beliefs will have the legal ability to deny queer people access and service.
"This bill does not limit any constitutionally protected rights or actions of any citizen of this state under federal or state laws," Bryant said in a public statement shared on Twitter: "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."
Contrary to what Bryant insists, H.B.1523's provisions could manifest themselves in horrible ways much more devastating than being turned away from a restaurant or business that doesn't care for gay people. Should an organization believe that a person's birth sex and gender are immutable, that marriage is only meant for heterosexual couples, or that homosexuality itself is a sin, they'll be able to:
- Fire a queer person or deny them a job.
- Deny a queer person access to housing.
- Deny them necessary medical procedures.
- Refuse to do business with them.
Initially, there was hope that public pressure and backlash might have swayed Bryant to reconsider signing the bill, but the Governor's statement made clear his belief that he made a sound decision. Critics were quick to voice their disappointment both in the Mississippi legislature and the people who voted voted in favor of the bill.
"Far from protecting anyone from 'government discrimination' as the bill claims, it is an attack on the citizens of our state," Mississippi ACLU executive director Jennifer Riley-Collins said. "It will serve as the Magnolia State's badge of shame."