Mississippi’s governor said he will sign a religious freedom bill approved by state lawmakers over the objections of opponents who say it could be used as an excuse to refuse services to gays and minorities.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which passed 79-43 in the state House of Representatives and 37-14 in the Senate on Tuesday, protects residents from state laws or local ordinances that violate their right to practice their faith.
It is modeled after the 1993 federal law with the same name and will take effect July 1.
Critics say the measure legalizes discrimination, giving businesses the right to refuse service based on religious objections. They warned scenarios such as the Colorado cake-shop owner who refused to bake for a gay wedding last year could become commonplace in Mississippi.
The American Civil Liberties Union accused lawmakers of ignoring the public outcry against such measures. It noted legislators in other states, including Georgia, Idaho, Maine and Ohio, had rejected similar measures and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed her state’s version of the bill in February.