Mississippi's "Religious freedom" bill appears likely to be a hurdle for the state's top college baseball programs as they pursue the right to host NCAA tournament games this year.
The NCAA adopted a new process Wednesday that will put the pressure on Mississippi colleges to show that they will provide an environment that "is safe, healthy and free of discrimination, plus safeguards the dignity of everyone involved in the event."
The new state law, which is titled HB 1523, allows religious organizations, businesses and government employees to refuse service under specified circumstances to gay and transgender people. It will go into effect on July 1, after the baseball postseason.
The NCAA's new process will be a requirement for sites hosting or bidding on NCAA events in all divisions.
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An NCAA statement on the decision said that the move was in reaction to "recent actions of legislatures in several states, which have passed laws allowing residents to refuse to provide services to some people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity."
"The higher education community is a diverse mix of people from different racial, ethnic, religious and sexual orientation backgrounds," Kirk Schulz, chair of the Board of Governors, said in a press release. "So it is important that we assure that community-- including our student-athletes and fans -- will always enjoy the experience of competing and watching at NCAA championships without concerns of discrimination."
North Carolina recently passed a law that places restrictions on transgender bathroom access and gay rights.
Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Southern Miss are considered strong candidates to host NCAA baseball regionals this year as top 20 programs. The 64-team tournament features 16 host sites in the first round.
Ole Miss, USM and Mississippi State have all hosted NCAA baseball regionals in the past, despite the controversy surrounding the presence of the Confederate emblem on the state's flag.
The NCAA announced in 2001 that Mississippi would be banned from hosting pre-determined NCAA postseason events due to the state flag. The NCAA lifted its ban on South Carolina after the state removed the Confederate flag from its capitol grounds last year.