Mississippi governor Phil Bryant signed a law Tuesday giving religious groups and private businesses the right to deny services to gay and transgender people.
Justifying his move, the Republican governor said that he was protecting religious freedom. The bill was signed by Bryant signed just hours after it cleared its final legislative obstacle Monday. The governor did not give any chance to even the opponents to talk him out of it.
It was not clear on Tuesday whether opponents would take attempts to repeal the measure as they are doing in North Carolina but Bryant signed a law limiting bathroom options for transgender people and prohibiting local communities from enacting anti-discrimination ordinances. It is notable that in Mississippi, local communities are prohibited by law from passing their own ordinances. The law is slated to take effect on July 1.
"We're still gathering troops," said Erik Fleming, director of advocacy and policy for the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi. "We're disappointed. We were hoping that the business community stepping up the way they did, and people of faith, would at least have him reflect on the decision."
It may be recalled that Georgia Governor Nathan Deal - also a Republican - vetoed a similar religious objections bill last week after strong opposition from big companies including Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines and national sports organizations. In North Carolina, PayPal announced on Tuesday it has canceled a major expansion in the state.
Bryant said in a statement that he signed House Bill 1523 because he wanted to protect "sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions of individuals, organizations and private associations from discriminatory action by state government or its political subdivisions."
Opponents of the law, however, claim that it is sword against LGBT people. "This bill flies in the face of the basic American principles of fairness, justice and equality and will not protect anyone's religious liberty," Jennifer Riley-Collins, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, said in a statement. "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."