Debate continues although HB 1523 is now law - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Debate continues although HB 1523 is now law

Many businesses still display the All Are Welcome Here sign to protest HB 1523 that is now state law. (Photo source: WLOX) Many businesses still display the All Are Welcome Here sign to protest HB 1523 that is now state law. (Photo source: WLOX)
BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) -

It’s taken more than a year for the Religious Liberty Accommodations Act to become state law.

But, the moral debate continues among business owners and consumers.

On the first Second Saturday in Bay St. Louis since HB 1523 became law, and it’s business as usual. But, Tony Trapani says he doesn’t need a law to know how to operate his business.

“We’ve always been accepting of anybody who walks through the door,” he said. “We’re not going to turn anybody away because of whatever they are.”

But, he doesn’t need a sign to announce it either.

“It hasn’t affected this business at all. It hasn’t affected any of these businesses,” Trapani said. “If you want to say all are welcome, of course, everybody’s welcome.”

Along with other cities on the Coast, Bay St. Louis has long been an opponent of the law that makes it legal for business owners to refuse service to anyone based on religious beliefs.

Many business owners proudly display the sign, which, they say, is a sign of unity.

“I think it reflects Bay St. Louis,” said Vivian Anderson-Jensen, co-owner of Serious Bread. “Besides, we are supposed to be a service to the community, and I think ‘All Are Welcome Here’ reflects Bay St. Louis’ sense of community.”

Pam Collins, owner of Twin Light Creations is equally dedicated to making the message clear.

“I personally wish it had not gone into law,” she said. “But it will not change the way how we treat our customers and how we feel, and I certainly hope that it doesn’t to any of the other shops in Old Town.”

Gainer Hiers philosophically supports the law’s concept.

“If I don’t want your business, I should be able to say, ‘I don’t want your business.’ Good, bad. And if you don’t want to associate yourself with me, that’s fine too.”

But Virginia resident Terry Walsh-Harding has a different view.

“If I fell into any of the categories that might be discriminatory, yeah, of course, I wouldn’t come,” Walsh-Harding said. “I would find other places that welcomed me.”

The law has been in legal battles since the day before it originally was to come into effect in July 2016. Opponents have now appealed the District Court’s ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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