SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - House Bill 1523 has taken the internet by storm. From celebrities on social media, to other state leaders banning non-essential travel to the Magnolia State, the Religious Accommodations Act continues to spark controversy.
Molly Kester, a transgender south Mississippian who is very active in the LGBT community, says before the ink was even dry on the bill, many in the LGBT community were already anticipating it passing.
"Everybody across the state was pretty much expecting it to happen and that's why the lawyers were already starting to draft up lawsuits so that as soon as he signed it, they could start filing them," said Kester.
Kester feels the law will mainly discriminate against the LGBT community, but unfortunately many other people could get caught in the cross hairs as well.
"Legalizing discrimination to save someone's rights just is wrong," said Kester.
For Kester it's about more than just protecting herself, but about those who travel to the Magnolia State as well. That's why several coast leaders are letting people know their cities are open to everyone.
Biloxi Mayor FoFo Gilich is sending a message to the world through a resolution he presented to City Council saying, "We do not discriminate. Period."
"We don't discriminate. We want to do what's best for Biloxi economically, educationally for each of our citizens what's best," said Gilich.
Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran also had strong opinions about how it affects tourism.
"Very, very disappointing, a tremendous step backwards for the state of Mississippi, as an economic development professional myself, we're always trying to put a good face forward for the rest of the world to recruit new business to create jobs and for tourism, especially here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and in the Delta, we really depend upon it," said Moran.
The bill is also leaving a bad taste in the mouths of those who have visited Mississippi. One email from a disappointed visitor read, "After years of visiting Gulfport and Biloxi, today we canceled our vacation reservations. We have met many wonderful and kind people there, but we cannot believe this law was passed and signed by your Governor. MS is no longer on our list of a state to visit."
Biloxi City Council members did not add the mayor's resolution to Monday night's agenda, but he expects they will in the coming weeks.
Another major tourism entity released a statement regarding House Bill 1523. Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast Executive Director Renee Areng said, "The Mississippi Gulf Coast boasts a diverse culture, and Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast respects the diversity of its staff, visitors and residents within the region. Our doors and shores are always open to everyone."