Mississippi legislators passed a bill that would allow businesses to deny certain services to same-sex couples on religious grounds on April 1. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant signed the bill into law on April 5.
The measure is opposed by gay rights activists who hold it paves the way for discrimination. Proponents of the bill hailed it as necessary to defend religious liberty in the state.
“It’s time that we stand up and do the work of the people and protect the freedoms that they enjoy,” said Republican State Rep. Andy Gipson, reports Reuters.
The measure’s opponents decry it as an “appalling” legal endorsement of discrimination.
“We urge Governor Bryant to do the right thing- reject discrimination, and veto this harmful measure when it reaches his desk,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, before the governor had signed the bill.
The bill reportedly goes beyond allowing businesses to deny wedding-related services to same-sex couples. Employers would be able to create dress code and bathroom policies based on religious beliefs, and foster parents would be allowed to put children into sexuality conversion therapy.
The “religious freedom” bill is not the first of its kind to spark controversy in traditionally conservative American states. North Carolina passed a similar bill the week of March 28 that requires transgender people to use the bathroom of their biological sex.
States that have adopted controversial measures that allegedly protect religious liberty have been subject to significant backlash from gay rights activists, businesses and other states. San Francisco, Washington D.C. and Connecticut all banned government-funded trips to North Carolina after the state’s “religious liberty” bill was signed, reports CNN.
Republican Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia vetoed a bill that aimed to allow “faith organizations” to refuse services and jobs on the basis of sexual orientation, under pressure from companies like Disney and the NFL, reports Politico.
The Mississippi bill reportedly faces opposition from gay rights groups and some of the largest employers in the state.