Entertainment & Arts

Authors Grisham and Tartt call for repeal of anti-LGBT law

Donna Tartt and John Grisham Image copyright Getty Images / AP
Image caption Donna Tartt and John Grisham both object to the religious liberty law

John Grisham and Donna Tartt are among 95 authors urging state officials in Mississippi to repeal a controversial new religious liberty law.

The measure, officially known as House Bill 1523, will allow employees to refuse to serve lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people.

The bill is scheduled to become law on 1 July.

The writers said in a letter the bill has prompted hateful rhetoric that "poisons our political discourse".

Grisham formerly worked as a lawyer in a Mississippi practice and was also elected to the House of Representatives during the '80s before becoming a writer.

Mississippi is one of about 10 states considering the measure after a US Supreme Court ruling last summer which effectively legalised same-sex marriage nationwide.

The measure protects "persons, religious organisations and private associations" from discrimination claims if they refuse to serve anyone based on the belief that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

'Fundamental freedoms'

Republican Governor Phil Bryant signed the bill last week despite objections from big businesses such as Nissan.

"It is our policy to prohibit discrimination of any type, and we oppose any legislation that would allow discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals," the company said.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Singer Bryan Adams cancelled a scheduled concert in Mississippi in protest over the law

But the Family Research Council, a Christian-based lobbying group, applauded the governor's decision to sign the bill.

Tony Perkins, the president of the group, praised the governor for "standing up for the fundamental freedoms of the people they represent".

"No person should be punished by the government with crippling fines, or face disqualification for simply believing what President Obama believed just a few years ago - that marriage is the union of a man and a woman," Mr Perkins said.

The authors say the legislation is an example of Mississippi's reactionary side. They argue the state also has a humane side that treasures compassion.

"It is deeply disturbing to so many of us to see the rhetoric of hate, thinly veiled, once more poison our political discourse," the letter signed by the authors said.

'Battling injustice'

The statement was written and organised by Katy Simpson Smith, a novelist who was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi.

"Governor Phil Bryant and the Mississippi legislators who voted for this bill are not the sole voices of our state.

"There have always been people here battling injustice. That's the version of Mississippi we believe in, and that's the Mississippi we won't stop fighting for."

National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward also signed the statement calling for the repeal of House Bill 1523.

The authors are not the first high-profile figures to raise concerns about the law.

On Monday, Bryan Adams cancelled a scheduled concert scheduled for Thursday in the state.

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