Gov. Bryant signs controversial religious freedom bill into law

Apr 6, 2016

Photo credit: Rogelio V. Solis/AP

By Adam Ganucheau

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has signed into law House Bill 1523, which allows circuit court clerks and business owners to refuse service to same-sex married couples based on religious beliefs.

Bryant’s signature on Tuesday comes after weeks of debate in both the House of Representatives and Senate, a combination of citizen backlash and support, promises of a lawsuit from civil liberty groups and condemnation from major businesses and corporations.

The bill, which states it “protects religious liberties” of those who would usually assist with same-sex weddings, such as photographers, pastors and wedding-related businesses, garnered national attention as Bryant’s decision loomed. The law goes into effect July 1.

“This bill does not limit any constitutionally protected rights or actions of any citizen of this state under federal or state laws,” Bryant said in a statement Tuesday morning. “It does not attempt to challenge federal laws, even those which conflict with the Mississippi Constitution, as the legislature recognizes the prominence of federal law in such limited circumstances.”

As the bill sat on his desk awaiting signature, Bryant kept quiet about his decision, telling reporters he would “look at it like I do every piece of legislation.” His spokespeople also remained hushed about his decision, not returning multiple calls and emails from Mississippi Today and other outlets about the pending decision.

Bryant joined the J.T. Show on Supertalk radio just minutes after releasing the statement. He explained his reasoning for signing the law.

“(The perception of the law) is unfortunate,” Bryant said. “Believe me, this law protects everyone’s rights under the law, and that’s what I tried to do. I signed it to make sure that’s what we were doing – protecting the civil liberties of the faith based community while not discriminating against any other group. That’s the position we’re trying to land on.”

Countering majority support from lawmakers in both houses, there has been widespread criticism regarding the bill since the Senate passed it March 30.

Civil liberty groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Campaign in Mississippi have said they will pursue legal action against the state now that the bill has passed.

Some legal scholars in Mississippi have called the potential lawsuit “easy to win.”

“This bill is incredibly unconstitutional,” said George Cochran, constitutional law professor at the University of Mississippi School of Law. “I think lightning will strike if this (bill) is signed into law.”

Nearly a dozen Mississippi businesses have released statements opposing it. Among these are AT&T, IBM, Levi Strauss & Co., Mass Mutual, MGM Resorts, Apple Computers, Hyatt Hotels, Nissan, Toyota and Tyson Foods.

Multiple protests have occurred across Mississippi the past two weeks, including one attended by approximately 200 people on Monday outside the Governor’s Mansion, in which people gathered to urge Gov. Phil Bryant to veto the bill.


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8 comments on “Gov. Bryant signs controversial religious freedom bill into law

  • @OP – The bill, which states it “protects religious liberties” of those who would usually assist with same-sex weddings, such as photographers, pastors and wedding-related businesses, garnered national attention as Bryant’s decision loomed. The law goes into effect July 1.

    This is obviously “theist interpretation of words with the help of bias blinkers”!

    What it actually does is assists bigots in the TAKING of religious liberties with other peoples rights!



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  • 2
    justasec says:

    To legalize protection for righteous indignation perpetrated against LGBTs, they have enacted a bill that allows LABT (Legal Assault by Bible Thumping)!



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  • @OP – “This bill is incredibly unconstitutional,” said George Cochran, constitutional law professor at the University of Mississippi School of Law. “I think lightning will strike if this (bill) is signed into law.”

    Remember that in US politics only the well sponsored and those favoured by media supported by corporate advertising, feature positively prominently.

    Hence scam for profit is the name of game!

    What better scam (well maybe apart from religion), could be devised to milk the public purse and victimised citizens, than to PAY muppet politicians to wilfully pass unconstitutional laws, and then PAY lawyers and judges block them, with further milking from appeals etc!



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  • Maybe I am too cynical but I can’t see anything succeeding if the large corporates oppose it. Especially in the land of the ‘free’.

    Perhaps Alan is right about the ‘scam for profit’, destined to fail and make money at the same time.



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  • A religious excuse to discriminate against gays is no different from a similar excuse to discriminate against blacks, women, Muslims, atheists, Christians, old people…

    To be consistent, religion should be an excuse for murder, double parking or any other crime. Why single out just discrimination against gays?



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  • ‘scam for profit’, destined to fail and make money at the same time.

    Somehow that made me think of Donald Trump. Prediction: President Trump or not, he’ll emerge from his campaigning considerably richer than when he started it. Discuss.



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  • A religious “freedom” law is an excuse for any religious group to impose religious beliefs on others. There must be a constitutional amendment that clearly states that anyone has freedom FROM religion, otherwise evangelicals and Catholics would have the so called “freedom” to outlaw not only abortion (in their definition) but also contraception (a means to prevent unnecessary abortions). Eventually I could see a religious war between catholics and evangelicals about who has the absolute truth. We could go back to medieval thinking and a new dark age until humanity grew up and discarded religion entirely.

    We need a new renaissance.



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  • The notoriety of the bigoted brain-dead of the Bible Belt, is spreading internationally!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-36104879

    The UK government has warned gay and transgender travellers to be careful in the US due to legislation in North Carolina and Mississippi.

    “The US is an extremely diverse society and attitudes toward LGBT people differ hugely across the country,” a travel advisory from the UK reads.

    Newly passed laws in both states allow businesses to refuse service to LGBT people.

    The advisory comes from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

    In North Carolina, legislation passed by Governor Pat McCrory invalidates previously passed legislation from Charlotte, that state’s largest city, that enacted LGBT protections.

    His new law states that transgender people must use public bathrooms according to the gender on their birth certificates. Mississippi’s law has a similar bathroom provision and also protects dozens of forms of businesses and services from being prosecuted by the government for refusing to serve LGBT people.

    It is “both frightening and embarrassing that one of our nation’s staunchest allies has warned its citizens of the risks” of travelling to the US, said Ty Cobb of the Human Rights Campaign.

    “It is now more clear than ever that these terrible measures are not only harming individuals and taking an economic toll on the states, but are also causing serious damage to our nation’s reputation, and the perceived safety of LGBT people who travel here.”



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