House Bill 1523, from conception to signing, including correspondence that is now part of the legal record:

  • June 24, 2015—Austin R. Nimock, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, reached out to Drew Snyder, an attorney in Gov. Phil Bryant’s office, two days before the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. Nimock gives Snyder a model  executive order “that would prevent state governments from discriminating against their citizens because of their views about or actions concerning marriage.” Nimock asks Snyder to “feel free to share this with the Governor Bryant.”
  • June 26, 2015 — Supreme Court held in Obergefell v. Hodges that the fundamental right to marry is Constitutionally guaranteed to same-sex couples.
  • Feb. 8, 2016 —House Bill 1523 was referred to Judiciary B committee.
  • Feb. 8 —House committee adopted substitute of the bill.
  • Feb. 19 —House amended the bill.
  • Feb. 19—House passed HB 1523 as amended.
  • Feb. 19 —In the House, Reps. Rufus Straughter, D-Belzoni; Andy Gipson, R-Braxton; and Joey Hood, R-Ackerman motioned to reconsider the bill.
  • Feb. 24 —The House voted to table the motion to reconsider HB 1523 and transmitted it to the Senate.
  • March 3 —Thomas Velie, president of New Beginnings International Children’s and Family Services Inc., an adoption agency, sent a letter to the Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves expressing support for House Bill 1523. In the letter, he wrote: “We believe marriage is between one man and one woman. We believe the best outcome for every child results from being raised in a two-parent home with a male and female role model. In our experience, we have never had a birth mother request a same-sex couple to adopt their child. However, we have had at least five birth mothers who identified themselves as lesbians seek our services because they wanted a two-parent, male and female home for their children.”
  • March 11 — Senate referred HB 1523 to Judiciary A committee.
  • March 14—Jameson Taylor, vice president for policy of Mississippi Center for Public Policy, wrote to Knox Graham, deputy communications director for Phil Bryant, expressing concern about “protecting freedom of conscience for schools and adoption agencies.” Taylor goes on to say that his organization is “fighting to prevent churches and other religious organizations from losing their tax-exempt status, to keep faith-based adoption agencies from being closed, to protect government officials from being fired for following their conscientious beliefs. Taylor added he also wants to protect government employees for statements made outside of the workplace affirming marriage and to protect wedding businesses.”
  • March 22—HB 1523 passed out of Senate committee.
  • March 28—Jameson Taylor wrote to Drew Snyder, Knox Graham, and Joey Songy, Bryant’s chief of staff, with talking points on how to respond to media inquiries about their support for HB 1523. The email emphasized that the bill was “narrowly, not broadly tailored” and did “NOT authorize discrimination against homosexuals as a class of people.” It also stated that circuit clerks must provide a way for marriage licenses to be issued even if no employees were willing to sign one and provided a link to an op-ed piece in The Clarion-Ledger written by Larry McAdoo of Redemption Outreach Ministries.
  • March 29—Sen. Jenifer Branning, R-Philadelphia, advised Bobby Morgan that she would handle HB 1523 on the Senate floor and requested a meeting to discuss Gov. Bryant’s position in light of similar bills, which stirred controversy in North Carolina and Georgia.

    Sen. Charles Younger, R-Columbus, left, and Jenifer Branning, R-Philadelphia, who spoke in favor of HB 1523 on the senate floor.
    Sen. Charles Younger, R-Columbus, left, and Jenifer Branning, R-Philadelphia, who spoke in favor of HB 1523 on the senate floor.
  • March 30—Using the subject line “Calls today on Hb 1523 need to happen,” Jameson Taylor encouraged supporters to call senators to express support for HB 1523.
  • March 30—Senate Amended HB 1523 and passed it as amended. A motion to reconsider HB 1523’s passage was entered.
  • March 31—Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Kellie Fiedorek offered Drew Snyder help from her organization with PR/messaging/support. She wrote: “Obviously there will likely be significant opposition so we want to help come behind you all however we can with national support and cover as well as activating folks in the state.”
  • March 31—Whitney Lipscomb, an attorney for Gov. Bryant, sent draft language for the governor’s signing statement to ADF attorney Kellie Fierdorek, who responded on April 1 with two versions of modified drafts, which she said she attempted to write in Bryant’s voice.
  • March 31—Forest Thigpen, president of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, distributed the results of a Mason-Dixon poll showing that 63 percent of the Mississippi public supports HB 1523. The email went to Laura Hipp, communications director for Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, Nathan Wells, chief of staff to Speaker Philip Gunn, state Sen. Branning, Rep. Gipson,  Drew Snyder and Joey Songy. Thigpen instructed those in the chain not to mention, distribute or forward the information.

    Forest Thigpin
    Forest Thigpen
  • March 31—Senate tabled motion to reconsider HB 1523.
  • March 31—Senate returned HB 1523 to House for concurrence.
  • April 1—House concurred HB 1523 as amended by the Senate
  • April 1—Representatives Hughes, Gipson, and Hood motioned to reconsider HB 1523.
  • April 4—Mike Armour, of the Mississippi Development Authority, shares an op-ed by Forrest Thigpen that appeared in The Clarion-Ledger and Mississippi Business Journal with several people.
  • April 4, 4 p.m. — Jameson Taylor emailed Drew Snyder, Joey Songy and Knox Graham more media talking points. They emphasized that the Obama Administration’s solicitor general gave states leeway to interpret how to strike the balance between Obergefell and “respecting the rights of conscience of those who disagree” with the rulings. In addition, the letter called the situation similar to conscience protections for healthcare professionals in the Roe v. Wade, compared requiring businesses to serve same-sex couples to “forcing a Jewish baker to make a swastika-adorned cake for a neo-Nazi wedding.” It also included the list of organizations that supported the bill.
  • April 4 —Dr. Keith Weibe, president of the East Ridge-Tenn.-based American Association of Christian Schools, wrote Gov. Bryant expressing concern for the tax-exempt status of the association’s 800 member schools and urging the governor to sign HB 1523.
  • April 4—Russell Moore, of the Ethics & Religious Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, asked Gov. Bryant to sign HB 1523 immediately upon legislative approval.
  • April 4—House tabled motion to reconsider HB 1523.
  • April 4—House and Senate signed enrolled bill.
  • April 5 —Jameson Taylor thanked Drew Snyder, Knox Graham and Joey Songy for their hard work. He went on to say: “…(F)rankly, if this bill fails it will severely cripple the entire fight for religious liberty nationwide…I will also add that having worked in (North Carolina), Pat McCrory is not known for being super conservative. But the NC governor is running for re-election and he knows it is good politics to defend religious liberty. That is why he has stood strong on the NC bill.”
  • April 5—Gov. Bryant signed HB 1523.
  • April 7 — Robert Miller, president of Austin, Texas-based Pilot ERP Software, expressed concern about HB 1523 to Director Glenn McCullough of the Mississippi Development Authority. Miller said his is an inclusive company and that, in response to the legislation, the company was no longer authorizing travel to the state and would no longer purchase goods or services from  Mississippi vendors. “Mississippi already has a long and unfortunate history of discrimination and intolerance and, as a former resident, it’s particularly frustrating for me personally to see that this environment still exists there,” Miller wrote.
  • April 11—Pamela Weaver, the MDA’s chief marketing officer, forwarded a press release to governor’s staff about the cancellation of Mississippi Picnic in New York City’s Central Park. Organizers of the picnic cited “the unfortunate adoption of HB 1523? as the reason for the cancellation.

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