Mississippi’s governor signed a law on Tuesday that allows public and private businesses to refuse service to gay couples based on the employers’ religious beliefs.
Gov. Phil Bryant signed House Bill 1523, despite opposition from gay-rights groups and some businesses who say it enables discrimination. Some conservative and religious groups support the bill.
The measure’s stated intention is to protect those who believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman, that sexual relations should only take place inside such marriages, and that male and female genders are unchangeable.
“This bill merely reinforces the rights which currently exist to the exercise of religious freedom as stated in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” the Republican governor wrote in a statement posted to his Twitter account.
The measure allows churches, religious charities and privately held businesses to decline services to people whose lifestyles violate their religious beliefs. Individual government employees may also opt out, although the measure says governments must still provide services.