Bigotry Spreads as Mississippi Governor Signs Anti-LGBTQ 'Badge of Shame'

Published on
by

Bigotry Spreads as Mississippi Governor Signs Anti-LGBTQ 'Badge of Shame'

'This is no religious freedom bill but rather a bill that gives freedom to those who discriminate," says US congressman

More than 300 protesters in Mississippi's state capital Monday rallied against House Bill 1523, to no avail. (Photo: AP)

As expected, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant on Tuesday signed a controversial and bigoted "religious freedom" law that opponents say sanctions widespread discrimination.

Bryant's stamp of approval, the ACLU said, gives Mississippi the "dubious distinction of being the first state to codify discrimination based on a religious belief or moral conviction that members of the LGBTQ community do not matter."

"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."
—Jennifer Riley-Collins, ACLU of Mississippi

"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," said Jennifer Riley-Collins, executive director of the ACLU of Mississippi.

"This bill flies in the face of the basic American principles of fairness, justice, and equality and will not protect anyone's religious liberty," she said. "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."

On Twitter, the state LGBTQ organization, Unity Mississippi, warned: "Expect travel bans from other states/cities. Expect boycotts. The consequences are real. They will become evident."

Such consequences are already becoming evident in North Carolina, which recently enacted a bill saying transgender people must use public bathrooms corresponding to the gender on their birth certificates, among other measures.

PayPal on Tuesday became the latest company to take a stand against North Carolina's law, cancelling plans for a new global operations center in Charlotte, where the company would have employed more than 400 people.

"The new law perpetuates discrimination, and it violates the values and principles that are at the core of PayPal's mission and culture," chief executive Dan Schulman said in a statement Tuesday. "As a result, PayPal will not move forward with our planned expansion into Charlotte."

In a letter on March 29, founders and chief executives of more than a hundred companies, including Apple, Twitter, and Google-parent Alphabet urged North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory to repeal the legislation.

The Charlotte Observer reported Monday that the Santa Monica, California-based studio Lionsgate was "pulling production for a new Hulu show that was supposed to be filmed in Charlotte," also citing the regressive law.

Similar fallout is likely to hit Mississippi.

On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that District of Columbia lawmakers are considering a ban on official travel by city workers to any state with laws that discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. The bill's sponsor said the measure would likely apply to Mississippi because of the law signed on Tuesday.

"The effect of signing this bill could be far-reaching and gravely damaging to our state," said U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, who represents Mississippi's 2nd congressional district, in a scathing statement on Tuesday. 

"Industries that are considering bringing jobs to our state and talented individuals considering bringing their skills to our state could decide to turn their backs on Mississippi just as the Governor and State Legislature have turned their backs on our own citizens and neighbors."
—U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, Mississippi

"Industries that are considering bringing jobs to our state and talented individuals considering bringing their skills to our state could decide to turn their backs on Mississippi just as the Governor and State Legislature have turned their backs on our own citizens and neighbors," he declared. "Much needed federal funding for things like transportation, infrastructure, and agriculture might be jeopardized now that this ill-advised and, indeed, discriminatory bill has been signed into law in Mississippi."

Thompson continued:

We have seen these types of 'religious freedom' bills in other states and we have seen the negative impact that they have had on industry and tourism in those states. I am deeply concerned that the same negative economic impacts will now befall Mississippi. For example, the NCAA has already placed the state of Mississippi under a postseason ban because the state still flies a flag bearing the emblem of the confederacy. Now, the state has upped the ante and adopted a bill that has the potential of legalizing discrimination. Who knows what penalties and consequences this law will bring from the NCAA and any of a number of other governing bodies with interests in the state?

Today, by signing this discriminatory bill, Governor Phil Bryant turned the clock back to a time when discrimination was codified through Jim Crow laws and poll taxes instead of looking forward to a more inclusive and tolerant future. This is no religious freedom bill but rather a bill that gives freedom to those who discriminate.

But Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD, vowed that "Gov. Bryant's attack on fairness will not deter us."

"The LGBT community," she said, "will not stop demanding equality and full acceptance until everyone in Mississippi can live the life they love."

The Jackson Free Press noted that the bill "will not technically become law until July 1." And, citing its unconstitutionality, Southern Poverty Law Center attorney Jody Owens told the paper: "You will see several lawsuits filed before it becomes law if the governor signs it." 

Several groups have already filed a lawsuit challenging North Carolina's sweeping anti-LGBT law.

Share This Article