Mississippi is now in competition with North Carolina for having the most anti-LGBT law on the books. Tuesday morning, Gov. Phil Bryant (R) signed HB 1523 into law, endorsing a veritable catalog of discrimination against LGBT people and even those who have sex before marriage.
“This bill does not limit any constitutionally protected rights or actions of any citizen of this state under federal or state laws,” Bryant claimed in a statement. “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.”
What that means is that almost any imaginable form of discrimination against same-sex couples, people who identify as transgender, or anyone who has had non-marital sex is now protected behavior under the law, so long as the discriminating individual has a “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.” Most notably, this includes shelter provided by religious organizations, any form of pro-LGBT counseling or medical support, any employer’s dress code or bathroom regulations, and any business related to the recognition of any marriage.
Though no city in Mississippi has a law protecting against discrimination in these venues, several have at least passed resolutions opposing such discrimination. If they ever upgrade those resolutions to laws, they will be virtually unenforceable because HB 1523’s state-level protections will supersede them.
Mississippi is not home to as many large companies as North Carolina, where an economic backlash to that state’s anti-LGBT law grows daily, but that doesn’t mean businesses haven’t spoken out. Major employers in the state such as Nissan, Tyson Foods, MGM Resorts International, and Toyota all released statements condemning the bill.
Jay C. Moon of the Mississippi Manufacturers Association also warned: “It is clear that many of our members find that HB 1523 would violate their corporate policies expressly providing for an inclusive workplace environment that supports diversity. This is not a bill that the MMA supports and we hope that it will not find its way into law.”
If the state sees even a fraction of the backlash North Carolina is now seeing, it could make the worst state economy even worse. In 2014, Mississippi’s economy ranked below all other 49 states, with the highest rate of unemployment, the lowest Gross Domestic Product per capita, the lowest average money spent in personal consumption, and the lowest average annual wages.
The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation also consistently ranks Mississippi last in terms of innovation, globalization, and technology. The state scores lower than any other state in educational attainment and health.
Despite being known as “the hospitality state,” Mississippi doesn’t seem to be particularly hospitable to anybody. It’s unclear how fanning the flames of hostility against the LGBT community will improve its standing in the country.