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Mississippi will miss big business after passage of anti-LGBT law

Kyle Simpson

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Last week, the Mississippi State Legislature passed a measure that explicitly protects those who seek to discriminate against same-sex couples and gay people in general. Besides being almost assuredly unconstitutional, these types of laws might as well just be billboards that say “we are stuck in the past and don’t know how to get out.” It remains to be seen whether Republican Governor Phil Bryant will sign the bill, but unfortunately for LGBT Mississippians, the governor has a poor record on these issues and has already said he doesn’t view the bill as discriminatory. Worse still, pressure from large corporations like Coca Cola, Delta Airlines, The Home Depot, the NCAA and the NFL are a big reason that Georgia’s governor vetoed their “religious liberty” law – Mississippi doesn’t have companies as big as that with interests in the state, and it stands to lose less economically in the short term, providing Governor Bryant seemingly no incentive to veto the bill.

In the long term, though, this bill represents a continuation of the economic and cultural suicide that the state has been engaged in for decades. The bill, which has tougher language than the infamous Indiana and Georgia “religious liberty laws,” represents the problem Mississippi, and the South as a whole, has – an insistence on shooting itself in the foot with needless attempts to revive a mythical “southern culture.” This horrible habit of fighting change just for the sake of fighting change is perhaps part of the reason the South lags behind the rest of the country economically even 150 years after the end of the Civil War.

Mississippi doesn’t have the big companies that kept Georgia from having their own religious liberties law as a result of a causal loop that includes this latest attempt at discrimination. I’m from the South and have spent my entire life here. My idea of southern culture isn’t of intolerance, hypocrisy and hate – it’s of acceptance of people different than ourselves, an appreciation of different viewpoints and an ability to appreciate and improve the beautiful place we have the opportunity to live in. Unfortunately, many of our neighbors and our leaders seem to think that the only way to preserve our “way of life,” whatever that is, is to put up childish and dangerous restrictions on people that they don’t like, akin to a “no girls allowed” sign on a tree fort. Does Mississippi, the butt of jokes (along with us here in Alabama) due to the events of the Civil Rights Movement to this day, really think that a bakery having to sell a cake to a same-sex couple is worth the continued ridicule and hurtful stereotype?

I know from personal experience that Mississippi is filled to them brim with kind and smart people. Half of my family hails from Mississippi, and I always enjoy the time I spend in the Magnolia State. That’s why it pains me so much to see laws like this pass; I want everyone to be able to work and enjoy living in the South because it will make things better for all of us. Rather than excluding others, Mississippi and Alabama ought to be as inclusive as possible, and we should show the world what we already know – the South has a lot more to offer than people think.

Kyle Simpson is a senior majoring in biology. His column runs weekly.

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Mississippi will miss big business after passage of anti-LGBT law