Mississippi LGBTQ segregation bill signed into law by Gov. Phil Bryant.

Segregation Is Back in Mississippi, This Time for LGBTQ People

Segregation Is Back in Mississippi, This Time for LGBTQ People

Outward
Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation
April 5 2016 1:23 PM

Mississippi Governor Signs LGBTQ Segregation Bill Into Law

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Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant photographed in February 2015.

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed into law the most expansive and malicious anti-LGBTQ bill ever passed in the United States.

The measure, cloaked in the language of religious liberty, is essentially an attempt to legalize segregation between LGBTQ people and the rest of society. It allows religious landlords to evict gay and trans renters; permits religious employers to fire workers for being LGBTQ; allows adoption agencies—private and state-run—to turn away same-sex couples; allows private businesses to refuse services to gay people; allows clerks and judges to refuse to marry same-sex couples; and forbids trans students from using public school bathrooms that align with their gender identity. No state has ever passed a law so blatantly rooted in malevolent animus toward LGBTQ people.

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Over the past week, myriad businesses and community leaders asked Bryant to veto the bill, which sailed through the Republican-dominated legislature. Recently, pressure from the business and civil rights communities persuaded Republican governors in South Dakota and Georgia to veto anti-LGBTQ bills.

But the lobbying was to no avail: A conservative Republican, Bryant quickly signed the measure once the legislature finalized it. (This, despite the fact that Mississippi already has an anti-LGBTQ “religious liberty” law on the books.) Bryant was apparently unruffled by the tribulations of his fellow Republican, Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina, who signed a similar though less sweeping bill and is now facing a revolt by hundreds of businesses. Most recently, PayPal announced that it will withdraw its expansion to Charlotte, North Carolina, on account of the legislation, costing the state millions in revenue.

Similar backlash is likely in Mississippi, as are lawsuits over the extremely dubious constitutionality of the law. 

Mark Joseph Stern is a writer for Slate. He covers the law and LGBTQ issues.