Harrison County

UPDATE: Biloxi council calls for repeal of HB 1523

Biloxi council wants HB 1523 repealed

BILOXI -- Six City Council members voted Tuesday to ask the state legislature to repeal House Bill 1523, which has been dubbed the "religious freedom" law, saying it doesn't represent the principles of Biloxi to welcome all people.

Council President Robert Deming III voted "present" rather than for or against the resolution. He said he did not like the language in the resolution or the idea of condemning the governor and legislature, who will decide how the BP money is allocated in the state. His was more of an economic position, he said.

Councilman Paul Tisdale also pointed to the economics of the law, which is costing the city business. "Passage of HB 1523 is purely political and symbolic," he said, and does nothing but hinder economic development. He said it was adopted by legislators who can't seem to agree on adequately funding education or fixing roads.

Councilman Kenny Glavan said the resolution delivers the message that the council opposes the law. It will take two-thirds of the legislators to overturn the law and said, "people still have a chance to state their opinion."

Scott Pietrowski was one resident who did that, saying the City Council was preparing to vote without asking residents how they feel.

"Nobody has read the bill," he said. It does not allow discrimination, he said, but protects individual rights to refuse to do business with someone and for businesses to provide separate restrooms for men and women.

To illustrate his point, he said there are no women in Biloxi Business Men's Club. "And here we say we do not discriminate," he said.

Councilman Felix Gines said South Mississippi is about tourism and unity and Mayor Andrew "FoFo" Gilich was correct to immediately take a stand against the law.

"I'm going to stand right behind the mayor in welcoming everybody to the Mississippi Gulf Coast," he said.

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