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.
The Rt Revd Brian Seage, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi, is currently travelling in Africa, but he released this statement:
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 and 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 gracious arms of our Lord are open to all who seek him. As the Episcopal branch of the Jesus movement, we continue to open our arms to our brothers and sisters who are adversely affected by this bill. Likewise, our arms are open to those who may be fearful and supported this legislation. New life may be found when we cast out our fear and ground our actions in the love of Christ.
Read Bishop Seage’s letter in full.
Featured image: the Rt Revd Brian R. Seage