Mississippi, the state where it's not illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of his sexual identity and only ratified the Constitutional amendment banning slavery last year, just got a new "religious liberty" law.
The Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act was signed into law tonight by Gov. Phil Bryant after the state's Senate and House passed it by significant majorities on Tuesday. Its vague wording is similar to an Arizona bill that Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed in February, which would have made it legal for businesses to refuse to serve people for religious reasons. The bill was prompted by lawsuits against wedding cake makers and photographers who refused to work at a same-sex ceremony.
Effective July 1 of this year, any person (and Mississippi defines businesses as persons) "whose religious exercise is substantially burdened by government" may use this law as a defense.
The law also changes Mississippi's seal. Since the state was founded in 1817, its seal has been an eagle and the words "the Great Seal of the State of Mississippi." Now, the seal will also say "In God We Trust." The law didn't make any changes to Mississippi's flag, which is the only one in the country with the Confederate flag on it. Earlier this year, Bryant said he would not change his state's flag.
"If you look at it again, where this state is moving forward, and how fast we're growing in our economy, [the flag] doesn't seem to have been slowing us down," Bryant told WAPT. "I don't think it will. I think other states need to worry about their problems and let us grow."
According to the AP, "a few elected officials, lobbyists for the state's influential Southern Baptist Convention and Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council" were present at the bill's signing.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.