Metro Weekly

Mississippi governor honored for anti-LGBT “religious freedom” law

Phil Bryant honored for law that allows people to claim religious exemptions to serving LGBT people

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (Photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture, via Wikimedia).
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant – Photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture, via Wikimedia.

The conservative think tank Heritage Foundation awarded Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) with a Conservative Leadership Award for signing a “religious freedom” bill into law, reports the Jackson Free Press.

The law, HB 1523, allows individuals — including government officials — to refuse to serve LGBT individuals or same-sex couples by citing sincerely held religious beliefs.

The day after the Sept. 12 award ceremony, Bryant wrote on his Facebook page: “I was humbled to receive the Conservative Leadership Award from the Heritage Foundation last night in Washington, D.C. I was joined in this class by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). Great honor for Mississippi and all those who believe in our Religious Freedoms as provided in the Constitution.”

The Heritage Foundation gives the Conservative Leadership Award each year to “conservative leaders who have persevered in the face of the liberal machine,” a press release from the Mississippi GOP said.

“All of our people who value freedom should be proud of this recognition regardless of their politics,” GOP Chairman Joe Nosef said in a press release. “For Phil Bryant’s entire career of public service, protecting religious rights for all Mississippians has been critically important to him.”

The Heritage Foundation and other conservative organizations have praised Bryant for his support of the law, which they see as fundamental to protecting religious freedom. They argue that the state has an interest in making sure private citizens or business owners aren’t compelled to engage in or participate in any activity that might constitute an endorsement of homosexuality or same-sex marriage.

The groups have particularly been incensed by a decision from U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves, who blocked HB 1523 from taking effect in June. Bryant and John Davis, the executive director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, appealed Reeves’ ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Fifth Circuit denied their request for an expedited ruling, but has not yet ruled on the merits of their appeal.

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