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Miss. Governor to Sign Anti-Gay ’Religious Freedom’ Bill

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Thursday Apr 3, 2014
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Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant  (Source:AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Mississippi’s Republican Governor Phil Bryant said he plans to sign a religious freedom bill that could allow business owners deny service to LGBT customers based on their religious beliefs, Reuters reports.

The measure mirrors Arizona’s controversial SB 1062, which was vetoed by the state’s Republican Gov. Jan Brewer in February.

Mississippi’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act received the green light from the state’s lawmakers, and was passed in the state House of Representatives by a 79-43 vote and in the Senate Tuesday with a 37-14 vote. The measure aims to protect citizens from state or local laws that violate their right to practice their religion. It’s modeled after the 1993 federal law with the same name and, if approved by Bryant, will go into effect July 1.

In a statement released Wednesday, Gov. Bryant said he was proud the measure would add the national motto "In God We Trust" to Mississippi’s state seal.

Those who oppose the bill say it would allow people to legally discriminate against others, giving business owners the right to refuse service based on their religious views. They say the LGBT community could be discriminated against, pointing to an example in Colorado where the owner of a cake shop denied to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding last year. They say similar situations would become normal in Mississippi if the bill is signed into law.

The American Civil Liberties Union says lawmakers have ignored the negative responses the bill has garnered and pointed out that lawmakers in Georgia, Idaho, Maine and Ohio voted down copycat bills.

"We remain hopeful that courts throughout the state will reject any attempts to use religion to justify discrimination," Jennifer Riley-Collins, executive director of the ACLU of Mississippi, said according to Reuters. "Nobody should be refused service because of who they are."

Despite the ire coming from LGBT and human rights activists and groups, the head of the anti-gay Family Research Council is pleased that the bill is just inches away from becoming law.

"This is a victory for the First Amendment and the right to live and work according to one’s conscience," FRC President Tony Perkins said. "This commonsense measure was a no-brainer for freedom, and like the federal, it simply bars government discrimination against religious exercise. The legislature gave strong approval to a bill that declares that individuals do not have to trade their religious freedom for entrance into public commerce.

"I commend Mississippi legislators for reading the bill and consulting the facts and not yielding to the wild distortions of the frenzied opposition of anti-religious liberty activists who caused other elected officials to retreat in recent weeks," he added.

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