Mississippi is feeling blowback, along with North Carolina, for explicit anti-gay legislation. One example here is from the Southern Foodways Alliance, which reports getting an inquiry about places safe for LGBT people to eat in Mississippi.
It is easy to think this is a joke. And it is easy for Arkansas to think, “Thank God for Mississippi.” But Arkansas, too, passed a law explicitly intended to protect discrimination against gay people. You need only say the Bible told you to do so. It passed a law intended to prevent liberal bastions like Oxford, Miss., or Fayetteville, Ark., from extending civil rights to LGBT people. It fought gay adoption and gay marriage to the last dying gasp of the U.S. Supreme Court. It just elected a state Supreme Court member, Shawn Womack, who believes homosexual acts between consenting adults should be recriminalized. Fayetteville has an alderman, John LaTour, who demanded to know the gender of a woman barista who didn’t conform to his idea of what a woman was supposed to look like and thinks he crossed no boundary in his boorishness.
So don’t laugh too hard when you read from Southern Foodways:
Today, at SFA World Headquarters, we fielded a request that—to my knowledge—we’ve never gotten before. Some visitors to Oxford, Mississippi asked for a list of places where they could eat without being discriminated against.
It was a fair question, given that Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed HB 1523 into law on Tuesday. Under the guise of ‘religious freedom,’ the bill effectively protects those who would refuse service to people whose views on gender, sexuality, and marriage differ from their own “sincerely held” religious or moral beliefs (Read the whole bill here). The blow came less than a week after U.S. District Judge Daniel Porter Jordan III overturned Mississippi’s same-sex adoption ban, the last of its kind in the nation.
Last in the nation. That’s a painfully familiar notion for folks in Mississippi. For many observers, HB 1523 lends credence to the longstanding stereotype of a backward state that kicks and screams against progress and equality. The stereotype is simplistic and highly problematic, but it still stings.
Insert Arkansas for Mississippi, change a bill number and you have us, too. You may refuse to serve a hamburger, hire or rent an apartment to a person who appears to your gaydar to be gay or doesn’t conform to your idea of gender presentation and the governor and legislature have your back.
Oxford restaurants are reportedly sprouting signs that say, in effect, “If you can pay, we’ll serve you.” But the state has been getting refusals from job prospects, cancellations and more for wearing its bigotry on its sleeve. You’d think Mississippi and Arkansas, of all places, could still remember the 1960s. Look away Dixieland.