Boycotts. Sit ins. Rallies. The ACLU is encouraging non-violent forms of protest to combat a new and controversial Mississippi law. Under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, business owners do not have to take actions that go against their religious beliefs. However, many in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community see the law as giving license to discriminate.
People gathered on the beach in Biloxi Tuesday night to show pride and to protest a law they said makes it legal for businesses to discriminate against the LGBT community.
Jena Pierce of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Lesbian and Gay Community Centers said, "We're going to fight. We're not going to stand down, because that's what they want. They want us to leave."
"If you don't want to be gay that's fine with us," said Jeff Perkins-White. "To tell me that my life has to be governed by your beliefs, I don't care who you are. I don't know you. And if I do know you, unless you pay my bills like he [husband] does, you really don't get to say anything."
Constance Gordon of the ACLU said the best weapon against the law is economic pressure.
"Our problem is tolerance. Our problem is tolerance for intolerance. How many times have you heard a person say something you didn't believe in and went right back and spent your money," said Gordon. "Patronize those who patronize us. Don't get mad. Don't get upset. Don't feel bad. Just know that your money can be better spent somewhere else."
Gordon told the crowd to look for stores that display a sticker with a logo that says, "We don't discriminate. If you're buying, we're selling."
The LGBT community said this fight is not one they can win alone.
"A huge thank you to all our straight allies," protestor Kenny Givens said. "Because slaves were not freed by themselves. Women didn't get their rights without men, and the Civil Rights Movement didn't happen with just blacks alone. "
The protestors said the change they want won't happen overnight, but they are hopeful it will in time.
"This new generation, as they grow older, I think they won't tolerate a lot of the things," said Gordon. "They turn 18 and start being more politically savvy, they are going to definitely make some changes, because Mississippi is way more progressive than a lot of people think. A lot of our lawmakers are of an older generation, but as time goes on things are going to change."
In a statement after Monday's Supreme Court decision on a case regarding religious freedoms, Governor Phil Bryant said that Mississippi did the right thing by enacting the Religious Freedom Restoration Act at the state level and protecting the religious liberty of Mississippians.
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