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.