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GOP's social, fiscal conservatives at odds over gay rights

Published:Thursday | April 7, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Protesters call for Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant to veto House Bill 1523, which they say will allow discrimination against LGBT people, during a rally outside the Governor’s Mansion in Jackson.


Republican lawmakers, upset about the Supreme Court decision legalising gay marriage have advanced measures in about a dozen states this year that could strengthen protections for those who refuse on religious grounds to provide services to same-sex couples.

The bills could benefit court clerks, photographers, florists, bakers, wedding-hall operators and others who say gay matrimony goes against their beliefs.

For a party already being torn apart by the presidential contest, the state legislative efforts have exposed deep rifts between the GOP's social conservatives and its pro-business wing. Business leaders worry that such measures will allow discrimination and scare away companies and major events.

So far, only a few proposals have become law. Those include narrowly tailored protections shielding Florida clergy from having to perform same-sex weddings and college religious organisations in Kansas from losing aid.

A far more sweeping one was signed into law on Tuesday by Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, despite objections from some major corporations. It creates a religious shield from government penalties for an array of people and organisations, including marriage-licence clerks, adoption agencies, counsellors, and more than a dozen categories of businesses that provide wedding-related services.