Jackson, Miss. is taking a stand against the state’s newly enacted religious freedom law, which allows businesses to deny services LGBT individuals on the basis of faith.
On Tuesday morning, Gov. Phil Bryant signed into law House Bill 1523, following a 31-17 vote last Wednesday from the majority-Republican Senate. Called the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience From Government Discrimination Act,” the legislation also allows employers to fire women for wearing pants or force them to wear makeup on the job.
As The Advocate previously reported, some have called the legislation the worst anti-LGBT bill yet. HB 1523 also allows businesses to discriminate against hiring LGBT employees and caterers to refuse services to same-sex couples.
In a meeting held later the same day, the Jackson City Council denounced the legislation. According to the Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Miss., the council “unanimously passed a resolution” against HB 1523. “The resolution states that Jackson acknowledges the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits governments from respecting an establishment of religion and protects all people equally under the law,” the Clarion-Ledger reports.
The statement, known as the “Resolution to Commitment to Diversity and Hospitality,” reads:
"The City of Jackson believes in the essential worth and dignity of every human being, promotes fair and impartial treatment of all citizens, and encourages kindness, compassion, understanding and cooperation among all people.
The City of Jackson does not sanction or tolerate discrimination against its citizens or visitors and seeks to preserve and protect the rights of all individuals regardless of religion or identity."
Ward 6 Councilman Tyrone Hendrix, who authored the resolution, further stressed that HB 1523 does not reflect the views of Jackson.
"We know we are a city of diversity,” Hendrix said during the Tuesday meeting. “This resolution is to tell the world that regardless of what our governor, our state agencies, our state Legislature may have passed, the City of Jackson wants you here, regardless of what color you are, regardless of your sexual orientation, regardless of what gender you are, we want you here in Jackson.”
As the Jackson Free-Press reports, Ward 3 Councilman Kenneth Stokes agreed. “These are human beings whether you believe in what they believe in,” Stokes said. “To incite discrimination is always wrong. There should never be discrimination in this world.”
These sentiments were affirmed in a press release from the city’s mayor, Tony Yarber, who argued that a commitment to diversity and inclusion is key to Jackson’s vision for the future.
“We are Mississippi's capital city,” he said, “and as part of our declaration of being the ‘Bold New City,’ we will not discriminate against any individual because of race, religious beliefs or sexual orientation, nor do we support legislation that allows for such discrimination.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the passage of HB 1523 makes Mississippi one of 22 states with religious freedom laws on the books.
Last year, Indiana passed its controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a bill similar to the one signed into law in the Magnolia State. That legislation was later “fixed” by Gov. Mike Pence, who removed provisions allowing for discrimination against LGBT individuals in April 2015, following widespread corporate backlash and calls to boycott the state.
These protests cost Indiana a reported $60 million in potential business.