The continuing battle over the rights of the gay community has taken on a new approach nearly two years after the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was legal. In response to that historic decision, a number of different states have now taken divergent avenues toward crafting legislation that directly affects LGBT individuals.
One such controversial proposal that was signed into law by Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant on April 5 has been met with a sarcastic take by Planting Peace, a non-profit group that supports issues related to gay rights and other disaffected communities.
Known officially as the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act (HB 1523), the new law allows businesses such as restaurants to deny goods and services that may be in conflict with their religious beliefs.
According to the law’s opponents, such businesses will be able to refuse to allow their facility to be used for any gay marriage rehearsal celebrations, receptions, anniversaries or anything that may be in conjunction with a gay marriage.
Bryant denied those charges, though he clearly indicated in comments later that day that a marriage which offended the beliefs of a business owner shouldn’t be subject to government interference.
Leading up to the Bryant’s signing of the bill, Planting Peace had paid to display on an electronic billboard in the state’s capital, Jackson, a message that offered subtle criticism of the law.
The billboard shows an image of Jesus Christ with a look of frustration and the following words: “Guys, I said I hate figs and to love thy neighbor.” The use of the word figs was a sarcastic take on a long-used epithet toward gay people and was also directly related to a Bible passage.
That passage (Matthew 21: 18-22) has Christ cursing at a fig tree. Planting Peace’s president Aaron Jackson noted that there are no such protests against figs or any regulation directed at them.
Jackson also explained that the decision to place the billboard message was due to the arbitrary way in which the state had defined the concept of traditional values.
Jackson founded the organization in 2003 and has made a habit of offering provocative takes on issues affecting the LGBT community. To combat the anti-gay messages espoused by the controversial Westboro Baptist Church, the organization purchased a home directly across the street from Westboro’s Topeka, KS, facility.
Two other southern states have also recently been in the spotlight with regard to legislation that directly pertains to gays.
In North Carolina, Governor Pat McCrory signed into law a ruling that not only eliminates the anti-discrimination laws that were in place for the LGBT community, but also prevents any individual communities from writing their own laws to protect those individuals against discrimination.
The backlash against that decision was swift, with approximately 120 major businesses, including Microsoft, Apple and Google demanding that the bill be rescinded. One such business, PayPal abruptly dropped plans to open up a global operations center in the state. That center would have employed more than 400 people in Charlotte.
In Georgia, Governor Nathan Deal vetoed legislation, saying that the economic impact of putting the law into effect would be devastating to the state’s economy. The National Football League indicated that they would refuse to consider Atlanta as a potential host for the always-lucrative Super Bowl. In addition, the state’s growing film community was threatened by studios who indicated that they would film elsewhere.
Despite his veto, Deal expressed irritation about how the potential threat of such economic boycotts were the basis for such a decision.