Apple says Mississippi 'religious freedom' bill 'empowers discrimination'

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An avid promoter of civil rights, Apple on Thursday voiced concern over Mississippi's "religious freedom" house bill that was signed into law this week by Governor Phil Bryant, a piece of legislation opponents say is a tool for discrimination against LGBT individuals.

In a statement to The Clarion Ledger, Apple said it was disappointed to see the passage of HB 1523, also known as the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination, which detractors claim protects discriminatory actions against LGBT people.

"We want Mississippians to know that our stores and our company are open to everyone, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, how they worship or who they love," an unnamed Apple representative said.

The bill's language protects citizens who deny goods and services to members of the LGBT community on the basis of religious convictions. In particular, there are three religious tenets safeguarded by HB 1523: marriage is reserved to one man and one woman; sexual relations are reserved to married couples; and the definition of "male (man) or female (woman)" refer to a person's "biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth."

Mississippi's edict is the latest in a series of religious freedom bills circulating in the American South. North Carolina and Georgia recently passed LGBT-related laws, while state legislatures in Tennessee and South Carolina are mulling similar bills.

Today's statement echoes Apple's response to the passage of a North Carolina house bill that prohibits transgender people from entering bathrooms, locker rooms and other facilities inconsistent with the gender listed on their birth certificate. Apple CEO Tim Cook later joined more than 80 business leaders in signing an open letter penned by the Human Rights Campaign asking Governor Pat McCrory and the North Carolina General Assembly to repeal the law.

Apple has long positioned itself as a proponent of civil rights, taking on issues from diversity in the workplace to LGBT rights. Along with internal initiatives, like highlighting LGBT apps on the App Store, the company takes an active role in community efforts. In 2014, Apple participated in San Francisco's LGBT Pride Parade as a sanctioned group for the first time, fielding some 5,000 Apple employees including Cook and other executives. The company took part in the parade again last year.


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