Many people were waiting with bated breath to find out whether or not Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant would sign the state’s new “religious freedom bill” into law. With the considerable backlash facing North Carolina in the wake of the passing of House Bill 2, many hoped that Governor Bryant would choose to veto the discriminatory legislation. Today those hopes were dashed, as House Bill 1523 was signed into law.
HB 1523 ensures that the state government will not punish people for refusing services to others because of a religious opposition to their sexuality or gender expression. According to NPR, the Mississippi legislation protects three specific beliefs and convictions: that marriage is between a man and a woman, that sex is "properly reserved to such a marriage," and that words like "male" and "female" are "objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at birth.” State employees can now refuse to issue marriage licenses; fire and discipline people solely for their sexuality or gender expression; and even refuse some medical care and counseling if it offends their religion to provide those services.
Governor Bryant defended his decision in a statement on Twitter, claiming that, “This bill does not limit any constitutionally protected rights or actions of any citizen of this state under federal or state laws.” Questionable at best.
HB 1523 goes into effect on July 1.
UPDATE (4/6/2016): In response to HB 1523, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has banned all non-essential state travel to Mississippi.