Starting this week, Mississippi residents that identify as LGBT will start to see their lives change drastically.
After an appeal was denied by the 5th Circuit Court last Tuesday, House Bill 1523 — also known as the “The Religious Liberty Accommodations Act” — is set to go effect in today. According to the law, government and private businesses can deny service to individuals based off their religious beliefs.
Opponents of the bill have pointed out how discriminatory the law is against LGBT people, blocking it from being implemented since it was originally passed last year. However, the battle to reverse the bill was ultimately lost, making it the broadest religious-objections law enacted since gay marriage was legalized in 2015.
The law, which was signed by Republican Gov. Phil Bryant in 2016, is stated to protect three beliefs: that marriage is between a man and woman; no sex outside of such marriage; and a person's gender is determined at birth.
Bryant has been very outspoken about his support for the bill, stating:
“The people of Mississippi have the right to ensure that all of our citizens are free to peacefully live and work without fear of being punished for their sincerely held religious beliefs."
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has also served as a strong advocate, crafting a 25-page memo this past Friday which directs all federal and executive agencies to enforce protection of religious freedom laws.
Many are fearing the danger and threat that could arise from the law written by Arizona-based Christian group Alliance Defending Freedom. As a result, several groups have delayed the process and have stood in solidarity with the gay community in Mississippi.
Two of those groups being the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus and the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, who took the stage at the State Capitol Building in Jackson this Sunday to send a message of unity and love to state legislators.
This is one stop of the Gay Men’s Chorus’s “Lavender Pen” tour, which is set to also hit Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina and North Carolina, as a radical response to the discrimination being seen in the country.
When looking at how the group was responding to the law in Mississippi, Robert Lowry, pastor of Fondren Presbyterian Church in Jackson, said it speaks volumes.
“The religious liberty law is really a law for discrimination,” Lowry said in an interview with Northern California publication KQED News. “It’s important the choir is visiting right now, coming and celebrating and sharing their gifts and bringing this message of wholeness and peace and community into our community.”
As for the community of Mississippi, many LGBT couples are preparing for the worst. Plaintiff Brandiilyne Mangum-Dear, whose attorney is planning to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, says that her and her wife will continue to fight those who stand for hate.
“We walk in very defensively," she told local Mississippi publication MS News Now. "And that's unfortunate. This is the hospitality state. We should not have to be afraid to walk into an establishment and be turned away or discriminated against or humiliated. It's a sad day."