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Miss. allows restaurants to refuse service to gay couples

mississippi state capitol

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant has signed into law a measure that allows restaurants and other privately held businesses with a staff to refuse service to gay couples on religious grounds.

The measure is sure to ignite a controversy that could dampen sales for some restaurants. Similar measures in other states have prompted convention groups to cancel their events, cutting into tourism.

Proponents of the new Mississippi law say the measure protects the religious beliefs of employers. If their values or religious tenets conflict with the lifestyles of prospective customers, they can refuse service to those consumers without risk of legal penalty.

The bill also allows businesses to create policies that limit the use of restrooms by transgender persons, similar to North Carolina's recent measure.

Civil rights advocates and members of the LGBT community lobbied hard against the measure.

The bill becomes effective July 1. 

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