Mississippi governor signs law to allow businesses refuse to serve gay couples

House Bill 1523 faced opposition from gay-rights groups

Mississippi, House Bill 1523, gay rights, religious beliefs, Phil Bryant

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant delivers his first State of the State address in 2012 | Image: Rogelio V. Solis / AP/Press Association Images

The governor in the US state of Mississippi has signed a law allowing businesses a refusal to serve gay couples.

The 'Religious Freedom Bill' means they can make a refusal based on their religious beliefs.

Governor Phil Bryant signed House Bill 1523, despite opposition from gay-rights groups and some businesses.

The measure is said to protect those who believe marriage should be between one man and one woman, and that sexual relations should only take place inside such marriages.

Writing on Twitter, Governor Bryant said: "I am signing HB 1523 into law to protect sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions of individuals, organizations and private associations from discriminatory action by state government or its political subdivisions".

"This bill merely reinforces the rights which currently exist to the exercise of religious freedom".

Governor Bryant added: "This bill does not limit any constitutionally protected rights or actions of any citizen...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".

"Badge of shame"

The legislation is set to become law on July 1st.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has described it as "a sad day for the state of Mississippi and for the thousands of Mississippians who can now be turned away from businesses, refused marriage licenses, or denied housing, essential services and needed care based on who they are".

"This bill flies in the face of the basic American principles of fairness, justice and equality and will not protect anyone’s religious liberty".

"Far from protecting anyone from ‘government discrimination’ as the bill claims, it is an attack on the citizens of our state, and it will serve as the Magnolia State’s badge of shame".

Mississippi is not the only US state looking to pass such a bill.

Georgia has the Free Exercise Protection Act, which says that no minister can be forced to perform a same-sex marriage and no individual can be forced to attend one.

That bill also says that no faith-based organisation "shall be required to provide social, educational or charitable services that violate such faith-based organizations sincerely held religious belief".