Miss. restaurant industry takes a stand against anti-gay law

Mississippi’s restaurant industry is trying to hold onto tourist bookings by shouting its opposition to a new law that allows businesses to deny service to same-sex couples.

The Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association announced yesterday that it will provide the state’s restaurants and hotels with free decals declaring, “Everyone’s welcome here.” Places that post the decals on their front doors or windows will then be listed on a website aimed at tourists. The “Everyone’s welcome” message will also be trumpeted via a social media campaign, the association said.

“When HB 1523 was signed, Mississippi was thrust into the national spotlight,” MHRA Executive Director Mike Cashion said in a statement, referring to the new legislation. “And while we may not be able to manage the image and brand of the entire state, we can affect the image of our restaurants, hotels and hospitality businesses.

“We want to make sure all customers are appreciated and welcomed. Mississippi’s restaurant industry is open for everyone’s business,” he said.

The bill was signed into law earlier this week by Governor Phil Bryant. Proponents say the measure is needed to protect the religious beliefs of employers in the state. If the lifestyles of certain patrons clash with a staffed business’s values, the establishment can refuse to serve the individuals.

Although that legalized discrimination extends to all members of the lesbian, gay and transgender communities, same-sex couples are expected to be the most frequent victims because their sexual orientation can be more easily read.

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