In June of 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5 to 4 decision to legalize gay marriage nationwide. The decision was met both with a wave of support and a crash of backlash. As a result, several states have passed laws with the intention of protecting “religious freedom”.
The most prominent laws passed have been in Mississippi and North Carolina. Legislators who passed the laws say that it is meant to even the playing field following the Supreme Court’s decision on LGBT marriage by allowing those who are religious to maintain their beliefs on marriage without being pressured by the government to do something that contradicts said beliefs.
Both laws circle closely around gay marriage by giving business owners the right to deny a customer services if they believe it violates their religious beliefs. For example, a bakery can refuse to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple. They can also deny service to a transgender individual.
In North Carolina, the law extends to restrooms, dictating that transgender individuals must use the restroom aligned with the gender they were assigned at birth. In order to do so, the new North Carolina bill repealed several laws passed around the state allowing for gender neutral bathrooms.
The bill in Mississippi would allow public servants to justify not serving marriage licenses to gay couples and more, according to a review by the Columbia Law School. It could allow a business owner to make their women employees wear skirts or allow them to not allow a single mother to work in their establishment.
Governor Phil Bryant of Mississippi has strongly protected his stance in signing in the bill.
“This does not create any action against any class or group of people,” said Bryant during a radio interview. “All this bill does is stop the government from interfering with people of faith who are exercising their religious beliefs.”
This is not the first time since the passing of gay marriage that disputes have broken out over religious rights. County clerk Kim Davis of Kentucky, for example, refused to give marriage licenses to gay couples, claiming it was against her religious beliefs.
The result has lead to statewide objections with several pro-LGBT groups, like the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, coming together to protesting the law.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, a pro-LGBT group, there have been nearly 200 bills proposed in over a dozen states’ legislative sessions that could pose a threat to LGBT individuals in this year alone, including those in Mississippi and North Carolina.
In both North Carolina and Mississippi, the laws have resulted in economic consequences, with large companies like Paypal pulling out potential deals with these states that would have resulted in jobs and million dollar investments.
Some states, like Vermont and New York, have banned official travel to Mississippi in opposition of the bill.
Legislators and protesters alike continue to hold strong to their positions, leading both sides into a deadlock.
By Nathalie Mairena