Bryant should back down from ‘religious objections’ appeal

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant AP File

Don’t do it.

That’s our advice to Gov. Phil Bryant, who is taking on a court fight the state ought to drop.

On Monday, the Associated Press reported Bryant is asking a federal appeals court to uphold a state law letting merchants and government employees cite religious beliefs to deny services to same-sex couples.

If you remember, a federal judge blocked the “religious objections” law moments before it was to take effect July 1, ruling that it unconstitutionally establishes preferred beliefs and creates unequal treatment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

According to the AP story, sent out nationwide, the law championed and signed by Bryant sought to protect three beliefs: marriage is only between a man and a woman; sex should only take place in such a marriage; and a person’s gender is determined at birth and cannot be altered.

More than 100 bills were filed in more than 20 state legislatures across the nation in response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage in June 2015, according to a UCLA law professor quoted in the AP story. Mississippi was the only state to enact a law listing specific beliefs to be protected.

The whole process brought a lot of negative attention to Mississippi, and once again highlights an-all-too-familiar values divide between South Mississippi and North Mississippi.

Pursing this appeal plays well for Bryant in North Mississippi. But in South Mississippi, not so much. People here, we believe, see this for what it is: blatant discrimination that must end. And we have to find a better way for the northern and southern parts of the states to come together on important issues such as this.

We urge the governor to let the existing ruling stand and back away for his appeal. The whole process has been an embarrassment for the state, and revives the stereotypes that Mississippi can’t seem to shake. It’s a shame the governor can’t see that.