Some States and Cities Setting Restrictions on Official Travel to Mississippi in Response to ‘Religious Freedom’ Law

Demonstrators gather to protest a controversial religious freedom bill in Indianapolis

By Angela Wills

Several state and city leaders across the country have instructed their officials to avoid nonessential travel to Mississippi. These instructions were given as a reaction to a law that was recently passed in Mississippi that protects those who deny services to LGBT people because of their religious beliefs.

The bans or instruction to avoid the area are aligned with those set forth in response to a controversial LGBT law in North Carolina also.

The business backlash has been somewhat quiet, compared with the recent outcries in Georgia and North Carolina.

The controversial law is the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act.” It aims to protect three specific religious beliefs: that marriage is between a man and a woman, that sex should only happy within such a marriage, and that a person is male or female based on their genetics and anatomy at birth. Under this law, anyone who denies or refuses certain services to someone based on one of those beliefs can’t face punishment for doing so.

Supporters of this law proclaim that it’s a way to protect individuals with religious objections to homos*xuality from “discrimination” from the state, that is, any possible punishment administered by the state government.

On the other hand, opponents of the law say that it amounts to the state declaring its support for open discrimination against LGBT people.

Since the bill was signed into law on Tuesday, five states, Minnesota, New York, Connecticut, Washington and Vermont, and three cities, Santa Fe, Seattle and San Francisco have banned their officials from traveling to Mississippi for any state-funded related issues that are non-essential.

Quite a few large businesses have spoken out against the terms of the law more aggressively, including Tyson Foods, AT&T, MGM Resorts, Toyota, Nissan and Levi Strauss, but none of these mentioned has threatened to terminate business transactions in or with the state.

North Carolina recently passed a bathroom bill that blocks cities from creating legal protections for LGBT people and mandating that trans people utilize the bathrooms of their gender as assigned at birth.  This bill caused PayPal to cancel their plans to generate a call center in Charlotte, and the NBA has discussed the possibility of taking the 2017 All-Star game away from Charlotte.

The states of Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina have similar controversial bills that have come up for vote. However, Mississippi could be receiving such a reaction because in some regards, it is the poorest state in the country and has a different relationship with large American businesses.