April 3, 2014 | by Chris Johnson
Mississippi governor signs ‘turn away the gays’ bill
Mississippi, Phil Bryant, gay news, Washington Blade

Gov. Phil Bryant (R-Miss.) (Photo public domain)

As expected, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed into law on Thursday a bill that critics say would enable individuals and businesses to discriminate against or refuse services to LGBT people on religious grounds, according to the Associated Press.

In a statement provided to the Blade by his spokesperson prior to signing, Bryant said he looked forward to penning his name to the legislation — particularly because it incorporates religious language on the state seal. The law will go into effect July 1.

“I appreciate the House and Senate leadership for their work on this effort, and I am particularly proud we will put our national motto, ‘In God We Trust’, on our state seal,” Bryant said. “I intend to sign the bill into law.”

Even though the bill was modified from its original version and never mentions words like “gay” or “same-sex,” LGBT advocates said the bill would have enabled discriminatory practices against LGBT people, including the refusal of services for same-sex weddings. But supporters of the bill, including the anti-gay Family Research Council, said it mirrors a 1993 federal law protecting religious beliefs and is similar to laws on the books in 18 other states.

Morgan Miller, spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, said her organization is “disappointed” Bryant didn’t heed opposition of state residents on the legislation.

“We remain hopeful that courts throughout the state will reject any attempts to use religion to justify discrimination,” Miller said. “Nobody should be refused service because of who they are.”

The bill is along the lines of the controversial “turn away the gays” bill in Arizona, SB 1062, which was vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer after a national outcry. However, the Mississippi law is somewhat different. For instance, it contains language saying nothing in the measure “shall create any rights by an employee against an employer if the employer is not the government.”

The level of opposition over the Arizona bill was significantly different from what was seen in Mississippi. Both U.S. senators from Arizona, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, business leaders and faith groups came out in opposition to SB 1062. That wasn’t seen in Mississippi.

Prior to the signing, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney had no comment on the proposed legislation during his routine news conference, although he noted he previously said Brewer’s veto of SB 1062 was the “right thing” to do.

“I haven’t seen a lot of detail on that situation, so I would not be able to comment directly on it,” Carney said. “We certainly thought that the Governor of Arizona did the right thing by vetoing that bill. But I don’t know the particulars of this particular action.”

The Mississippi law is part of a nationwide trend of “turn away the gay” bills advancing in state legislatures. Including the one vetoed in Arizona, other similar bills in Georgia, Idaho, Maine, and Ohio were rejected. But similar bills are still pending in Missouri and Oklahoma.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

8 Comments
  • Just wondering about the divergence of public attention and reaction to this pending law in Mississippi and that recently-vetoed "turn away the gays" bill in Arizona . . . Are there such substantial differences between the two pieces of legislation, or has it more to do with lesser regard for one state and less negative perceptions of the other?

  • Might be tourist dollars — a bigger factor in Arizona, I think, than in Mississippi.

  • Every law is 2 edged sword. They key is to know how to wield it to cut the throats (not literally) of those that passed it and employ it. It can be done. Turn the law back on those who would use it and refuse service to them based on other Biblical tenets like divorce, women in management positions, people that wear polyester, women that cut their hair or do not wear a covering on their heads. Be as radical as they are. Take a lesson from Disney's Aladdin – you wanted your laws – you got it. And everything that comes with it. Dust off those Bibles honey – there are some pretty radical beliefs in that book. Hey, it's Mississippi. The Bible not only encourages slavery, it commands it. You really wanna go back down that road Gov Bryant? Be careful where you step – it may just be in your own sh**.

  • Jennifer Gillion

    I believe it's a three-fold difference. 1. The Arizona bill was so harsh, medical/emergency personnel could have denied life-saving help, among other things. Quite scary. 2. There was a monetary loss to be had if the bill had gone through, i.e. Super Bowl. And 3. There is very little opposition to these antiquated feelings in Mississippi, so it's hard to raise enough stink within their own state. So without outside opposition from big companies because of big money making opportunities lost, MS just goes on being MS. That's my opinion, anyway.

    • OK, so then: 1. The Arizona bill literally was more lethal (legally and figuratively!) than the soon-to-be-actual law in Mississippi, or is the latter just more ambiguous? 2. Yes, it’s always about that, right? God bless the almighty American dollar! and 3. Apathy? This one disturbs me a bit more than both of the others, perhaps because I’m an ex-pat Mississippian . . . Resignation that we must expect nothing more than more of the same-old is repugnant to me when we ought to accept nothing less for Mississippi than the civil liberties defended in any other of these United States . . . Unfortunate but true that historically we have fallen in at the tail end of the parade for progress, but mustn’t the Magnolia State be held to the same standards as the rest of America?

  • Mississippi? I’m sorry but that was not on my bucket list anyway Mary!

  • I remember a decade ago when the religious groups, and MS government was battling over casinos and gambling, saying it was against "God's" teachings, boy have things changed, they can't build them fast enough on the MS coast.

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