Organizers cancel events, call for repeal of HB 1523

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Many people throughout the nation view Mississippi’s new Religious Liberty law as a shockingly blatant invitation to discriminate and have shown their discontent by canceling events in or associated with Mississippi.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed House Bill 1523 on April 5, creating the “Religious Liberty Accommodations Act” which catalized backlash across the nation.

The controversial act defines marriage as “the union of one man and one woman” and forbids the state government from taking any discriminatory action against an organization that refuses to officiate marriages on religious grounds. It also prohibits discriminatory action against those who refuse employment, sale, rental, housing and adoption due to sincerely held beliefs and convictions.

Bryan Adams is one of many artists who have cancelled Mississippi shows in wake of the state’s new law. The Canadian singer was supposed to perform in Biloxi’s Mississippi Coast Coliseum on April 14. He announced his cancellation in an Instagram post, calling the state’s discrimination of its LGBTQ+ citizens “incomprehensible.”

“I cannot in good conscience perform in a state where certain people are being denied their civil rights due to their sexual orientation,” Adams wrote in the post. “Using my voice, I stand in solidarity with all my LGBT friends to repeal this extremely discriminatory bill. Hopefully Mississippi will right itself and I can come back and perform for all of my many fans. I look forward to that day.”

Ninety-five Mississippi writers also called for the repeal of the bill in a letter written by novelist Katy Simpson Smith and signed by John Grisham, Donna Tartt and Kathryn Stockett, among the others.

“What literature teaches us is empathy,” Smith wrote in the letter. “It reminds us to reach out a hand to our neighbors – even if they look different from us, love different from us – and say, ‘Why, I recognize you; you’re a human, just like me, sprung from the same messy place, bound on the same hard road.’ It is deeply disturbing to so many of us to see the rhetoric of hate, thinly veiled, once more poison our political discourse.”

Organizers of the 37th Annual Mississippi Picnic in Central Park also cancelled the event due to passage of HB 1523. The picnic serves as a networking opportunity and heritage celebration that involves New York- based Mississippi natives and others who travel to attend.

Nathan Herring, a Starkville, Mississippi native who lived in New York and attended the picnic in the past, said the picnic is a reminder of home and a lot of the good things about Mississippi.

“I don’t think it was totally necessary to cancel it,” Herring said. “[There’s] not a huge number of people there, so I don’t think it really made a statement. I understand the opposition to the law, but it’s a shame for both New Yorkers and Mississippians because it’s such a good thing for people from both places to experience a new culture and remember their old one.”

The event was cancelled in part due to a petition to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and others.

“Mississippi should not be proud, nor does it deserve to celebrate their State in this park if they don’t share New York’s values of diversity, inclusion and mutual respect,” the petition said. “The measure, cloaked in the language of religious liberty, is essentially an attempt to legalize segregation between LGBTQ+ people and the rest of society.”