Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant Signs Anti-Gay Bill Into Law

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed a so-called “religious freedom” bill into law this morning. He tweeted this statement justifying his reasoning:

This is what a bad governor looks like.

This is what a bad governor looks like.

I am signing HB 1523 into law to protect sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions of individuals, organizations and private associations from discriminatory action by state government or its political subdivisions, which would include counties, cities and institutions of higher learning. This bill merely reinforces the rights which currently exist to the exercise of religious freedom as stated in the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

This bill does not limit any constitutionally protected rights or actions of any citizen of this state under federal or state laws. It does not attempt to challenge federal laws, even those which are in conflict with the Mississippi Constitution, as the Legislature recognizes the prominence of federal law in such limited circumstances.

The legislation is designed in the most targeted manner possible to prevent government interference in the lives of the people from which all power to the state is derived.

CBS News reports that this 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, and that male and female genders are unchangeable.” There are so many problems with this premise. First up is the demand for sincerity in religious beliefs, which I’m pretty sure is impossible to prove in court. And Bryant for some reason neglects to mention in his statement that the bill would allow anyone to deny housing to someone for reasons of gender identity, sexual preference, or even sex outside the bounds of marriage. I can’t imagine this law would survive even the tiniest challenge in court.

And hey, didn’t North Carolina pass one of these bigoted anti-gay laws a while ago? How are they doing? Dominic Holden reports for BuzzFeed:

PayPal announced Tuesday that it is canceling an expansion in North Carolina that would have employed 400 people, the latest and one of the starkest examples of the repercussions for the state passing a law overriding local LGBT-rights ordinances and banning transgender people from bathrooms that match their gender identity.

PayPal had announced the expansion project just two weeks ago.

So North Carolina has already lost 400 jobs because they demanded the right to discriminate against LGBT people. I hope that discriminating against another human being is somehow as satisfying as working a full day’s work at a good-paying job, because North Carolina is already losing economic prospects directly because of this law. Mississippi is sure to follow.

This is about as simple an idea as they come, and I can’t figure out how North Carolina and Mississippi haven’t already learned it: when you institutionalize the exclusion of people, others will stay away from you. (Seattle Mayor Ed Murray banned official travel to North Carolina at the end of March and just now he announced a [PDF] similar ban of Mississippi.) Your economy will become more and more homogenous. People will leave to find better prospects in other states, and businesses will stop considering you as a potential location. These are simple, observable consequences that remain consistent throughout history, but for some reason leaders like Governor Bryant never seem to learn from them. That works out well for forward-thinking, inclusive leaders like Washington’s own Governor Jay Inslee.

That’s the economy in action, Governor Bryant: inclusion equals growth. Full stop.

 

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Paul Constant
Paul Constant has written about politics, books, and film for Newsweek, The Progressive, the Utne Reader, and alternative weeklies around the country.