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The Rise of Anti-LGBT Bills in the South

Support for LGBT rights in America tends to be regionally specific.

By Francie Diep


Mississippi State Capitol building in Jackson. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Mississippi’s governor signed into law a bill this week that allows people and organizations to refuse services, goods, and housing to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people based on “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions” that same-sex marriage is wrong, or that gender is “immutable.” The spirit of the law is at odds with Americans’ steadily growing, stated support for marriage equality. But Mississippi isn’t the only state to have considered or passed anti-LGBT laws recently, especially in the American South.

In March, North Carolina passed a law requiring transgender adults and children to use bathrooms matching the sex on their birth certificates, not their gender identity. Tennessee is considering a similar bill. Georgia’s governor, meanwhile, vetoed a bill last month that would have allowed religious groups, including charities, to refuse to perform services and to make hiring decisions based on homophobic beliefs.

These bills reflect the regionally specific nature of support for LGBT rights in the United States. Favor for marriage equality is concentrated in Northeast and West Coast. It’s much lower in the South:

There isn’t comparable data about Americans’ attitudes toward transgender rights. Those states with laws protecting transgender people from employer discrimination, however, do tend to be the same ones that are welcoming of marriage equality:

Considering these patterns, it’s not a huge surprise some state politicians are trying to take matters into their own hands, especially after last year’s nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, which many Republicans opposed.