JACKSON, Miss. — Government employees and private businesses in Mississippi could deny services to same-sex couples who want to marry under a bill passed by the House on Friday – one of numerous attempts across the country to enact so-called religious protection statutes after a Supreme Court ruling that effectively legalized gay marriage.

Now, Republican Gov. Phil Bryant must decide whether to sign the bill into law.

Mississippi is among 10 states that have passed or are considering such legislation. Work on this bill started months ago, but the House vote Friday came a day after a federal judge blocked Mississippi from enforcing the last state law in the nation to ban same-sex couples from adopting children.

Bryant has often said he believes marriage should be between a man and a woman, but would not say Friday whether he will sign House Bill 1523

“I haven’t gotten to it yet. As soon as it gets to us we’ll look at it and decide,” Bryant said after a Capitol news conference about a youth jobs program.

“I’m going to look at it like I do every piece of legislation and as soon as I make that decision, I’ll let you know,” he said.

Bryant signed a 2014 bill promoted by gay marriage opponents, saying government cannot put a substantial burden on religious practices.

This year’s bill is similar to the one Georgia’s Republican governor vetoed Monday amid objections from businesses that said it would permit discrimination.

The Mississippi bill is also similar to North Carolina’s first-in-the-nation law that limits bathroom options for transgender people in government buildings. Business executives are urging North Carolina Republican Gov. Pat McCrory to repeal the bill he signed March 23.

The Mississippi bill says people could not be punished for a belief that gender is set at birth.

It says schools or businesses can set gender-specific rules about how a person dresses or which bathroom a person must use.


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