A Mississippi Democratic state senator says he voted for a discriminatory law that would allow businesses to turn away gay customers because he “was not aware of this intention or possible result.” Sen. David Blount, who represents the 29th District, posted the message to his Facebook account this morning.
The law, officially titled the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 2681), would make it legal for a business owner to discriminate against gay customers if that discrimination was said to be motivated by a “sincere religious belief.” The language of the bill is so broad that the implications reach far beyond the LGBT community, however.
The bill was passed by the Mississippi State Senate January 31, but it was not until we reported on the discriminatory implications of the “Turn Away the Gays” law last night that a backlash erupted across social media, prompting Blount to respond:
“This morning (Feb. 26), I learned that the bill passed unanimously by the State Senate a month ago to change the state seal also includes language that could legalize discrimination (like the bill now receiving media attention in Arizona),” Blount wrote. “I was not aware (nor was any other Senator or interest group or citizen that I have talked to aware) of this intention or possible result when we voted on the bill on Jan. 31. I am opposed to discrimination of any kind, including discrimination based on sexual orientation. Obviously, I should have (all of us should have) been aware of this. I have already talked with House members about removing language relating to legalized discrimination in SB2681.”
Mississippi Sens. Billy Hudson and Joey Fillingane, who co-authored the bill, told WDAM reporter Margaret Ann Morgan that they would continue to support the bill. Morgan reported via her Twitter account that State Sen. Chris McDaniel, who is challenging Sen. Thad Cochran for his U.S. Senate seat, declined to comment. McDaniel, who was not present for the vote last month, said he wasn’t well-versed on the bill.