Hancock County

Councilman sees 'no discrimination' in HB 1523, says same-sex relationships are 'not normal'

JOHN FITZHUGH/SUN HERALD/FILEBay St. Louis City Councilman Jeffery Reed
JOHN FITZHUGH/SUN HERALD/FILEBay St. Louis City Councilman Jeffery Reed SUN HERALD

BAY ST. LOUIS -- Members of the Bay St. Louis City Council disagreed last week on whether the city should respond to Mississippi House Bill 1523.

At the council's regularly-scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Ward Two Councilwoman Wendy McDonald presented city attorney Donald Rafferty with a draft resolution addressing the passing of the "religious freedom" bill.

The bill states, among other things, that individuals and business owners can refuse services to members of the LGBT community if they feel a religious conviction to do so. Opponents of the bill say it has opened the door for legal discrimination of people based upon their sexual orientation.

McDonald said in Tuesday's meeting that she feels the city needs to go on record as opposing the controversial bill.

"I've read the bill ten times, maybe more," Ward Three Councilman Jeffery Reed said. "I see no discrimination."

"I've read it about fifty times," McDonald said. "There's sections in it that I find alarming. It's too vague. ... I don't think it's something that I would like to see enacted. That's not the kind of community that we have. It's not the kind of community we've been. To pass a law like this one ... I have a problem with that.

"I want to be sure that people who live here and who are the backbone of our economy are not treated differently than other people who live here."

McDonald read her proposed resolution aloud: "Whereas the city of Bay St Louis strongly supports the American principles of equal protection under the law for all of our citizens, whatever their religion or sexual orientation and identity. "

If the council were to adopt the resolution, she said, the city as a whole would be pledging "to be a friendly, welcoming, and hospitality city to all citizens and guests and to respect the dignity and worth of individual rights of each."

Reed said he felt the citizens needed to be well aware of the issue coming up. Rafferty said there needs to be more public discussion about the issue.

"Marry who you want to marry," Reed said, "but don't make me glorify and dignify what you made a choice for. I have a business and I'm not discriminatory in my business. As long as the money is green and you're paying me, I'll provide a service. I don't believe that the issue here is providing service."

However, he said, he did not view same-sex relationships as either "normal" or "natural."

Council Chairman Joey Boudin said he believes the city has already addressed the issue with a previous resolution decrying discrimination of any sort.

"This is a state issue," Boudin said. "I don't want any friction between us and the state lawmakers."

He encouraged members of the public to voice their opinions by calling their state representatives or writing letters in regard to the bill.

Council members said they would discuss the issue again at their next regularly-scheduled meeting.

The city of Biloxi adopted a resolution opposing HB 1523 on April 19.

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