Mississippi Hotel Association, ACLU Chapter, Denounce State's Religious Freedom Law
Following Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant's signing today of House Bill 1523, a controversial law that allows public and private businesses to refuse service to the LGBT and transgender community, and even single mothers, based on a business owner's religious beliefs, several groups, including the Mississippi Hotel & Lodging Association, have publicly opposed the measure. The hospitality organization, helmed by executive director Linda G. Hornsby, released the following statement in opposition of the legislation:
"MH&LA respects the diversity of our residents and visitors, and believes that inclusive treatment of all people is good for the workplace, marketplace and society as a whole. We are opposed to any laws, including House Bill 1523, that permit government and/or businesses to decline to provide services to individuals because of their diversity. Laws such as this contradict our basic American values of equality and respect for all human beings, and result in a negative impact upon our tourism industry and the economy of the state."
The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi also released a statement following the governor's action. "This bill flies in the face of the basic American principles of fairness, justice and equality and will not protect anyone's religious liberty," said the organization's executive director, Jennifer Riley-Collins. "Far from protecting anyone from 'government discrimination' as the bill claims, it is an attack on the citizens of our state, and it will serve as the Magnolia State's badge of shame."
The law's stated intention is to protect those who believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman, that sexual relations should only take place inside such marriages. According to press reports, Mississippi now has the nation's most aggressive anti-LGBT law. To take effect in July, it will allow businesses, individuals and religiously affiliated organizations to deny service to LGBT people, single mothers, and others who somehow offend an individual's "sincerely held religious belief." It also directly targets transgender residents, effectively claiming that one's sex assigned at birth is immutable, and will be the only gender recognized by the state. Individual government employees may also opt out, although the measure says government entities must still provide services.