You may wonder why, just days after Georgia’s conservative Republican governor Nathan Deal vetoed a “religious liberty” bill, the Mississippi legislature is poised to pass a far more sweeping anti-LGBT bill, one sure to become a new benchmark for both supporters and opponents of such laws. Aren’t Magnolia State solons worried about the kind of pressure from Hollywood and the sports industry that brought Deal to heel?
Probably not. Unlike Georgia (or the more proximate Louisiana), Mississippi has not gone completely hog-wild for film and TV subsidies. Yes, it has a subsidy program, but one with outlays (per project and overall) that are limited by law. So its lawmakers are less subject to pressure from Hollywood moguls who threaten not to rip off its taxpayers anymore if the state champions discrimination.
Of perhaps even greater importance given the sports-mad nature of the Deep South, Mississippi is not going to be hosting any Super Bowls or any college-football national championships (or NCAA basketball Final Fours) in the near future. It also differs from Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, and North Carolina in having no college-football bowl games being played within its boundaries.
So in the constant competition between God (as its conservative Evangelicals imagine Him) and Mammon, the latter cannot so easily outgun the former in Mississippi. So its desire to make itself a safe haven for anti-LGBT discriminators is allowed to burn more brightly than is the case with its more outgoing neighbors.
On the other hand, Mississippi has one thing in common with Georgia that could theoretically cut in the opposite direction: It has a lame-duck governor who no longer fears Christian-right retribution at the ballot box. So far Phil Bryant has done none of the public agonizing over the “religious liberty” bill displayed by Nathan Deal. He’s even said he doesn’t think bills like Mississippi’s represent “discrimination.” And he signed a much more general bill of this nature back in 2014. Perhaps more to the point, Bryant’s a guy who seems to be comfortable living in the past, as evidenced by the fact that thanks to him Mississippi will begin celebrating Confederate Heritage Month tomorrow. Maybe he’ll sign the discrimination bill at the same time just to make it clear that, as its famous son William Faulkner once said, it’s a place where “the past is never dead. It’s not even past.”