[JURIST] Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant [official profile] on Tuesday signed a bill [HB 1523, materials] into law that will allow state employees to refuse to issue same-sex-marriage licenses and allow private companies and religious groups to deny services to the LGBT community without the threat of punishment. The legislation will also allow [Reuters report] employers to use religion as a reason to establish workplace policies regarding such things as dress codes and bathroom access. Proponents of the bill claim that the law will help protect sincerely held religious and moral beliefs of people who now live in a country where same-sex marriage is legal. Detractors of the law claim that it will allow employers to freely discriminate. The law is not as broad as other religious freedom bills passed by other states recently, but it still specifically protects the beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman, that sex should be reserved to such a marriage and that the words “male” and “female” are “objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at birth.”
The intersection of religious liberty and sexual orientation and gender identity has been a controversial issue in the US. On Thursday Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge filed a notice of appeal [JURIST report] of a judge’ s decision upholding a Fayetteville ordinance that protects members of the LGBT community from discrimination. Last month Georgia Governor Nathan Deal said that he would veto [JURIST report] a religious freedom bill that critics claim would sanction discrimination against LGBT individuals. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed [press release] a similar bill. Also last month North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper on stated [JURIST report] during a press conference that he will not defend House Bill 2, which he considers to be discriminatory against the LGBT community. That legislation specifically prohibits local municipalities from enacting anti-discrimination ordinances.