More than 200 people rallied at the Governor’s Mansion in Jackson on Monday evening to urge Gov. Phil Bryant to veto House Bill 1523, which has become known as the “Religious Freedom Bill.”
Opponents say it legalizes discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender individuals on religious grounds. Proponents say the bill protects the freedom of people whose religious convictions prohibit them from providing business or legal services to same-sex couples who wish to get married.
Hours earlier, the House had voted to table a motion to reconsider the bill, sending it to the governor’s desk.
“I’m obviously disappointed in that the legislative body didn’t do their job, and the speaker (of the House of Representatives) ignored the citizens of this state, and the speaker ignored the business community,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a national advocacy group.
Griffin noted that since the Senate passed House Bill 1523 last week, nearly a dozen 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.
The Mississippi Economic Council released a statement opposing the legislation: “As the State Chamber of Commerce for a state that has proven its hospitable and business-friendly approach, MEC opposes efforts that would intentionally or unintentionally prevent Mississippi business from implementing and enforcing non-discrimination policies or that would limit diversity and inclusion impacting their customers and employees.”
The Mississippi Manufacturers Association, concerned that the bill violates the diversity policies of many of its members and will harm Mississippi’s image, called for Gov. Bryant to veto the bill.
Last week, Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a similar bill passed by the Georgia legislature. Companies such as Disney and Delta Airlines said they would not do business with the state if the bill were to become law.
“CEOs from this state and all across the country have been able to be at the table in other states that have considered such matters,” Griffin said. “And that’s why the Republican governor of South Dakota vetoed a similarly hateful bill. Recently in Georgia a Republican governor did the same thing.”
Gov. Bryant’s office did not return a request for comment.