Anti-gay legislation gaining momentum in the South

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JACKSON, MS - It looks like the South is rising again… against equality.  The governor of Mississippi has just signed into law the controversial religious freedom act.

"If a baker or photographer says my deeply-held religious view says I cannot participate in a religious ceremony like a wedding the state cannot fine you," expressed Mississippi governor Phil Bryant.

This new law will allow businesses to refuse service to gay people or fire LGBT employees based on religious beliefs.

"What we're seeing right now is conservatives who are aiming to legalize discrimination against gay and transgender populations", said Lou Weaver, transgender program coordinator for Equality Texas.

The governor of North Carolina is about to sign a similar bill and, despite the fact that many corporations oppose this type of legislation, it seems that the wave is gaining momentum.

"Unfortunately, we have had some successes like marriage equality, but these are setbacks," explained Fran Watson, President of the Houston LGBT political caucus.  "Now there's a sense that real equality can happen for LGBT people, so now we have this attack on our community."

Similar to what happened in Houston a few months ago, when the Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) was defeated in a referendum, the fear of allowing transgender individuals into women's bathrooms plays a key role in this campaign.

"That same bathroom message, that bathroom lie of allowing sexual predators was used to try to deny racial integration", added Watson.

In the meantime, gay, lesbian and especially transgender people in the South worry about how this trend could affect their daily lives.

"Transgender folks often become targets of abuse, whether it's verbal abuse, whether it's a physical assault", Weaver described, "and so sometimes it makes it very difficult for transgender people to access public accommodations overall, and they won't go there for fear that they will be attacked in some fashion."

We thought legal discrimination was flushed long ago down the river of bad memories.  Bad news, folks: the past is back.