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Outcry among LGBTQ advocates spreads against new Mississippi law

Fallout continues one week after Mississippi passed a law that allows business owners and employees to refuse services to LGBTQ people based on “sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions.”

After nearly four decades, organizers have cancelled the annual Mississippi Picnic in New York City’s Central Park, citing the law that defines marriage as being between a man and woman, the Clarion-Ledger reported Tuesday. The picnic draws thousands every year with the promise of fried catfish, sweet tea and Southern fellowship far north of the Mason-Dixon as a way to “to showcase and help preserve the great culture of Mississippi,” according to the New York Mississippi Society, which is responsible for the picnic.

That is just one example of what backlash against the state since House Bill 1523 became law. Rock singer Bryan Adams cancelled his April 14 show in Biloxi, his website said.

“I find it incomprehensible that LGBT citizens are being discriminated against in the state of Mississippi,” the statement said. “I cannot in good conscience perform in a state where certain people are being denied their civil rights due to their sexual orientation.”

And 95 Mississippi authors, including John Grisham and Donna Tartt, signed a letter Monday that demands their home state repeal the law, saying they “stand opposed to any violation of civil rights, including discrimination against LGBTQ citizens, and call for the repeal of the recently enacted House Bill 1523,” the Jackson Free Press reported.

Pepsi, Coca-Cola and GE also have asked the state to repeal the law, the Clarion-Ledger reported.

A handful of Democratic lawmakers in Mississippi are trying to do just that. On Tuesday, they introduced the Mississippi Economic and Tourism Recovery Act, named out of concern that H.B. 1523 will negatively effect one of the poorest states in the nation, the Jackson Free Press reported. If the act received two-thirds of the state House and Senate vote before ultimately going before Bryant, who would have to offer his signature before repealing the law.

Meanwhile, the American Family Association heralded Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant and the state’s legislature for passing the law, saying in a written statement that lawmakers acted “in spite of pressure, fear tactics, lies and intimidation from pro-gay activists.”

Bryant has said that the law “does not limit any constitutionally protected rights or actions of any citizen of this state.”

Called the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” the law permits business owners and employees to deny service ranging from floral arrangements to foster care to LGBTQ people based on the belief that marriage and sex should only be shared by men and women.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal rejected similar efforts from his state’s lawmakers, saying: “I do not think we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia.”

Mississippi’s law is set to go into effect in July.

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