Unswayed by the backlash over similar bills in North Carolina and Georgia, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant today signed into law a ‘religious freedom’ bill that makes discrimination against LGBTI people legal.
The bill, known as the ‘Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,’ passed the State Senate last week by a vote of 31-17 after just over two hours.
In a statement on Twitter, Bryant said he is signing the bill into law ‘to protect sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions … from discriminatory action by state government.’
The governor insists the new law ‘merely reinforces’ existing religious freedom rights and ‘does not limit any constitutionally protected rights or actions” and does not challenge federal law.
‘The legislation is designed in the most targeted manner possible to prevent government interference in the lives of the people from which all power to the state is derived,’ he said.
HB 1523, is considered by LGBTI activists to be the worst of the anti-gay bills currently under consideration by state legislatures in the US.
It legally protects religious institutions should they decide to not recognize the legality of same-sex marriages or refuse to place children with qualified, deserving LGBTI families.
It also protects state employees if they refuse to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple and sanctions the use of ‘conversion therapy’ to ‘cure’ LGBTI people.
The American Civil Liberties Union denounced the governor’s action and said in a statement: ‘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. 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.’