The governor of Mississippi has signed into law a bill that allows private and public businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples, so long as that couple’s existence conflicts with the “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions” of the business owner.
Governor Phil Bryant released a statement on Twitter after signing House Bill 1523, also known as the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act”, protesting accusations that the bill facilitates discrimination against LGBT Mississippians. Instead, Bryant said, the bill “merely reinforces the rights which currently exist to the exercise of religious freedom as stated in the first amendment to the US constitution”.
The bill, which additionally asserts that marriage “is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman” and that sexual relations are “properly reserved” only for such unions, is also the first statewide legislation to codify the belief that transgender individuals are to be considered members of the gender they are assigned at birth, regardless of their own gender identity.
“Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth,” the measure states.
While individuals, businesses and charities may decline to provide services to LGBT customers, the bill still requires the state government to provide services – although it does allow government employees to opt out of providing services individually