The Democratic governors of Vermont, Minnesota, Connecticut, New York and Washington have banned all non-essential government travel to Mississippi over a new religious freedom law that protects pastors, faith-based organizations and business owners who object to being complicit in another’s same-sex ceremony.
“Discrimination is not a New York value. We believe our diversity is our greatest strength, and we will continue to reject the politics of division and exclusion,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement on Tuesday. “This Mississippi law is a sad, hateful injustice against the LGBT community, and I will not allow any non-essential official travel to that state until it is repealed.”
“This act of discrimination is discriminatory against many Mississippi residents, and violates their Constitutional rights,” Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton also remarked. “We cannot allow this injustice to go unanswered. When the rights of some Americans are threatened, it is the responsibility of all Americans to stand in opposition to those discriminatory acts.”
As previously reported, last Friday, the Mississippi House of Representatives passed H.B. 1523, also known as the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act. It had been passed days prior in the Senate.
“The sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions protected by this act are the belief or conviction that: marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman; sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage; and male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth,” the legislation, authored by House Speaker Phillip Gunn, reads.
The bill then prohibits the government from punishing those who decline to officiate same-sex ceremonies or provide services or accommodations for the celebrations, as well as those whose policies require use of locker and restrooms consistent with their biological gender.
It does not permit persons to refuse service in general, but only to decline forms of personal participation in events that conflict with their faith.
“The state government shall not take any discriminatory action against a person wholly or partially on the basis that the person has provided or declined to provide … services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, formation, celebration, or recognition of any marriage, based upon or in a manner consistent with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction,” it reads in part.
Major corporations such as Pepsi, General Electric, Whole Foods, Dow Chemical Company, Hewlett Packard, Choice Hotels International, Hyatt Hotels and Levis Strauss & Co. have expressed opposition to the measure. Religious freedom groups, however, have applauded the move.
“Mississippians from all walks of life believe that the government shouldn’t punish someone because of their views on marriage,” stated Alliance Defending Freedom legal counsel Kellie Fiedorek. “After all, you’re not free if your beliefs are confined to your mind. What makes America unique is our freedom to peacefully live out those beliefs, and the Constitution protects that freedom.”
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has defended the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act, stating that it “merely reinforces the rights which currently exist to exercise of religious freedom as stated in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”