The governor of Mississippi signed a controversial law Tuesday that permits employers and businesses opposed to same-sex unions on religious grounds to refuse service to such couples.
Republican Governor Phil Bryant signed the law despite opposition from human rights groups, gay-rights activists and some businesses that see the legislation as discriminatory. Several hundred protesters chanting "no hate in our state" rallied outside the governor's mansion in the capital, but failed to sway Bryant's decision.
The measure allows churches, private businesses and religious charities to decline services to people whose lifestyles violate their religious beliefs. It also says that local and regional governments must continue providing such services.
The governor of Georgia — under pressure from major corporations and sports organizations operating in the state — last week vetoed similar legislation, saying he did "not think we have to discriminate against anyone to protect [Georgia's] faith-based community."
A crowd of around 500 people protested a bill permitting service denial to gays outside the governor's office during a rally in Jackson, Mississippi, April 4, 2016.
That veto came after technology giants Apple and Intel, the media conglomerate Time Warner and the entertainment empire Walt Disney Company called the legislation discriminatory and urged the governor to veto the bill.
Action in other states
Lawmakers in at least 10 states have passed or are deciding various bills affecting gays, lesbians and transgender people — partly in response to a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year that legalizes same-sex marriage, and partly to overrule municipal legislation granting protections to transgender people.
The governor of North Carolina sparked widespread controversy last month by passing a law banning local governments from allowing transgender people to use restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their current gender identities.
That legislation, widely referred to as the bathroom bill, has come under fire from major corporations doing business in the state, as well as the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the NCAA.
Both athletic organizations say they may move future sporting events to other venues to protest the legislation, which they describe as discriminatory.