New law draws ire of many locally; Others believe law protects rights of business

Published 12:00 pm Saturday, June 24, 2017

On Thursday, a federal appeals court reversed a law allowing businesses in the state of Mississippi to deny services to same-sex couples.

The bill, HB 1523, began in 2016 when Governor Phil Bryant signed it into being.

The reversing of HB 1523 drew mixed reactions from Oxonians and businesses in the town and county.

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Margie Green Schloesser, the co-owner of The Jefferson, an event venue, says that it will “absolutely” not change anything about the business.

“We offer a venue that’s open to anyone and The Jefferson can be used for many purposes such as weddings, business meetings and formals,” she said. “The venue is available to anyone that wants to book. We’re a place for celebration or to gather and we think anyone should be able to gather.”

McKenna Raney-Gray, the Events Manager for The Nests BnB, says that their facility is an “open and accepting wedding venue, and it doesn’t take anti-discrimination laws for (them) to be this way.”

“It’s important to us that our brides and grooms feel comfortable with us and in the spaces we have provided for them to celebrate their love and the beginning of their marriage,” she added. “We will stand strong as we wait for another appeal to this ruling.”

The EAGLE Facebook page saw numerous people debating the bill’s passing.

“A private business should be able to refuse service to anyone for any reason whether it is a gay baker who refuses to bake a Christian cake or a NRA member car dealer who refuses to sell a car to a Democrat,” wrote Matt Nichols. “Why would you want to give your money to someone who doesn’t respect you or want your business? Take your patronage to an open minded business that wants you, there are plenty of them.”

“This law only encourages discrimination, plain and simple,” wrote Ed Gillenwater in response. “Protects one belief, while crippling another’s.”

The Rev. Gail Stratton, a Unitarian Universalist minister, says that religious liberty law is “neither about religion nor liberty.”

“It is a law that privileges one particular religion over all others and a law that allows blatant discrimination against several groups of people,” Stratton said via email. “It makes a mockery of both religion and liberty. My religion calls me to greater love, greater openness and greater risk.  It calls me to be curious when I don’t understand another person’s lived reality.”

Stratton added that the law allows discrimination against “people who love each other and choose to honor their love through the institution of marriage.”

“I can say for myself that my marriage with my wife was the most sacred day of my life,” she said. “My religion of Unitarian Universalism honors this. I long for all religions to honor this … All of the world’s great religions teach compassion and care for the stranger. The carpenter from Galilee taught that our highest calling is to love God and to love ourselves and to love our neighbors.

“This law encourages none of this.”