Groups back, blast religious freedom law

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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.

Businesses, individuals and organizations released statements Tuesday supporting and opposing the bill that has created controversy well beyond the state.

Gov. Phil Bryant

“I have signed HB 1523 into law 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, which would include counties, cities and institutions of higher learning. This bill merely reinforces the rights which currently exist to the exercise of religious freedom as stated in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

This bill does not limit any constitutionally protected rights or actions of any citizen of this state under federal or state laws. It does not attempt to challenge federal laws, even those which are in conflict with the Mississippi Constitution, as the Legislature recognizes the prominence of federal law in such limited circumstances.

The legislation is designed in the most targeted manner possible to prevent government interference in the lives of the people from which all power to the state is derived.”

“We are happy that Governor Bryant has seen fit to protect religious people. Religious people have constitutional rights too. When the LGBT political machine attempts to deprive someone of those religious rights then this type of legislative action becomes necessary.

We don’t see it as discrimination, which is a word that has been thrown around very liberally about this legislation. To a religious person, this is protection of a constitutional right as old as the United States itself. That is freedom of worship.”

William Perkins, editor of Mississippi Baptist Record of the Mississippi Baptist Convention 

“The Governor is a strong believer and should be applauded for his courage. The pressure on him has been enormous, and the insults are about to get personal. However, this is what the LGBT political machine has wrought. Religious people have constitutional rights, too. In their zeal to deprive us of those rights, the LGBT political machine has made such legislative actions necessary. They have to own up to that reality.”

Right Rev. Brian R. Seage, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi

“Governor Phil Bryant’s approval of House Bill 1523 is deeply disappointing. An anxious majority of both the State House and Senate, with the Governor’s support, have effectively created an additional class of citizens in Mississippi. … Ungrounded fear is never a solid foundation for legislation.  That seems to be the case here. Our beloved state has struggled to move beyond its troubling past but, unfortunately, this legislation has placed Mississippi back in the crosshairs of critical public opinion. … The State of Mississippi will likely find itself in federal courts once again, spending large sums of funds which could have been spent on building the future. Those efforts to defend a culture of fear will likely be futile.”

IBM spokesperson Clint Roswell

“IBM is disappointed that Governor Bryant has signed HB 1523 into law. This legislation will permit discrimination against people based on marriage status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. Laws of this kind do not reflect IBM’s values, and are bad for our employees and our business. IBM will continue to follow its global non-discrimination policy in the workplace, and believes that an inclusive and welcoming environment is the best way to attract talented individuals to our company.”

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi

“The effect of signing this bill could be far-reaching and gravely damaging to our state. Industries that are considering bringing jobs to our state and talented individuals considering bringing their skills to our state could decide to turn their backs on Mississippi just as the Governor and State Legislature have turned their backs on our own citizens and neighbors. Much needed federal funding for things like transportation, infrastructure, and agriculture might be jeopardized now that this ill-advised and, indeed, discriminatory bill has been signed into law in Mississippi.

We have seen these types of ‘religious freedom’ bills in other states and we have seen the negative impact that they have had on industry and tourism in those states. I am deeply concerned that the same negative economic impacts will now befall Mississippi. For example, the NCAA has already placed the state of Mississippi under a postseason ban because the state still flies a flag bearing the emblem of the confederacy. Now, the state has upped the ante and adopted a bill that has the potential of legalizing discrimination.”

U.S. Representative Steven Palazzo, R-Mississippi

“Last June, the Supreme Court announced their decision to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide.  I expressed my adamant disagreement and disappointment with this decision that undermines the Constitution and the will of the people of Mississippi.  Under the United States Constitution, marriage laws have always been a matter left for the states.

Therefore, it should come as no shock that states stripped of their Constitutional authorities would take actions like this to protect the religious freedoms of their citizens.  Enough is enough. I continue to stand strong on this issue and support the objective of  this bill to protect individuals from government interference when practicing their religious beliefs.”

MGM Resorts International, which owns Beau Rivage casino in Biloxi and Gold Strike casino in Tunica

“MGM Resorts is disappointed that this legislation has become law. We respect the diversity of our employees, our guests and the people in our communities.  Laws that permit businesses to decline to provide services to individuals because of this diversity will result in discrimination, decreased tourism and harm to the state’s economy.”

AT&T

“AT&T supports our freedom of speech and religion just as vigorously as we oppose discrimination. Legislation that permits discrimination against any of our employees or customers conflicts with our core values. Our position on discrimination is simple; we oppose it.”

 

Microsoft President Brad Smith

Very disappointing to see the news from Mississippi. These laws are bad for people, bad for business, and bad for job growth. #HB1523

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves

“In the wake of last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision, many Mississippians, including pastors, wanted protection to exercise their religious liberties. This bill simply
protects those individuals from government interference when practicing their religious beliefs.”

Levi Strauss & Co. senior director for global policy and advocacy Anna Walker

“Equality and nondiscrimination in the workplace are core values to Levi Strauss & Co. and how we do business. Laws such as HB 1523 undermine these values and we join with other national and Mississippi-based businesses in calling for the repeal of this discriminatory law.”

Family Research Council

“This new law gives fresh momentum to efforts on the federal and state level to stop government discrimination against people who believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. We applaud Governor Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, and House Speaker Philip Gunn, for standing up for the fundamental freedoms of the people they represent.   No person should be punished by the government with crippling fines, or face disqualification for simply believing what President Obama believed just a few years ago, that marriage is the union of a man and a woman.”

Sen. Andy Gipson, R-Braxton and co-sponsor of the law

“Thank you Gov. Phil Bryant for your leadership and boldness! Thank you for standing up to the powerful interests who misrepresented this good bill.”

U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

“The tide of history is to expand freedom and end discrimination.  Mississippi’s abhorrent new law is going against the tide of progress in our country. We will send a clear message to legislators in Mississippi, North Carolina, or anywhere else who would follow their example in bigotry: hateful, discriminatory laws targeting LGBT Americans have no place anywhere in America. LGBT Americans have a right to respect, dignity and equality in every state in the nation.  It is long overdue for Congress to pass the Equality Act to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the historic Civil Rights Act that guards our democracy.”

TV personality Montel Williams

“As a human being, a Christian, a conservative, and American who served 22 years in the military, I find myself dumbfounded that Governor Bryant has signed HB1523, a bill that is steeped in bigotry towards LGBT individuals and seems to create a sin test for public accommodation in Mississippi. In making this decision, Governor Bryant has chosen Mississippi’s dark history over a bright future, and for one who thinks Mississippians are good, kind, hospitable people, that is a dark day indeed.”

Mississippi Manufacturers Association

Regarding the passage of House Bill 1523, the Mississippi Manufacturers Association’s position continues to reflect the concerns manufacturers have with this bill and its potential to conflict with their policies of diversity and inclusion. However, the MMA respects the wishes of the legislature and Governor.

Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham

Thankful for Governor @PhilBryantMS and the Mississippi legislators who voted to protect religious freedom. #HB1523

Mississippi Democratic Party

“It is incredibly disappointing that Governor Bryant and Republican leaders of our state, despite our history, have decided to pass a law that licenses discrimination against our own citizens. Instead of tearing down walls that divide, the Republican Party has spent this session building new barriers of bigotry. We must do better.”

Mississippi Democratic Trust

“I am profoundly disappointed by Governor Bryant’s decision to sign HB 1523. This continues a repeated pattern by Republican lawmakers to involve themselves in the personal lives of Mississippi citizens at the expense of all of us. What’s worse, Governor Bryant had an opportunity to say in earnest, “Welcome to Mississippi, we’re open for business,” and instead he chose to add an asterisk. In signing this bill into law, Governor Bryant has once again made discrimination a state policy.”

ACLU Mississippi Executive Director Jennifer Riley Collins

“This is a sad day for the state of Mississippi.”

Southern Poverty Law Center Mississippi attorney Jody E. Owens

“Gov. Phil Bryant’s decision to sign HB 1523 into law is unconscionable. This newly enacted law – like the draconian anti-LGBT laws in other states – uses the guise of ‘religious freedom’ to justify discrimination, mistreatment and bigotry. It’s the same sort of rationale used by white supremacists in earlier eras to justify slavery and Jim Crow. The estimated 60,000 LGBT people in Mississippi deserve better. We need to stand up for the rights of all people.”