National backlash over LGBT laws doesn't stretch to Florida
When Gov. Rick Scott signed a law three weeks ago allowing pastors to religiously object to gay weddings, there was no national outcry. Disney didn't threaten to pull out of Orlando. The NFL didn't say it would refuse to hold the Super Bowl in Miami or Tampa.
But elsewhere across the South, that kind of high-profile reaction is exactly what's happening, as states pass sweeping changes that activists and business groups say could lead to discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
With same-sex marriage legalized nationwide, this is the new battleground for LGBT rights. In state capitols across the country, conservative lawmakers have proposed bills seeking to balance religious freedom with the Supreme Court's summer ruling in Obergefell vs. Hodges that every couple has a right to get married — regardless of their sex or gender.
"Where do one person's rights begin and another one's end?" said Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, a sponsor of one such bill in Florida this year. "This opened up a sort of Pandora's Box of religious liberty issues that I suspect for many years are going to be debated in statehouses across the country."
During the past week alone, debate over several similar bills rose to the national stage:
• A North Carolina law passed last week is provoking outrage, including opposition from tech companies like Facebook and Google, for requiring transgender people use the restroom for the sex indicated on their birth certificate and overruling local ordinances banning LGBT discrimination.
• Wednesday night, the Mississippi Senate followed the House's lead in passing what may be the most sweeping proposal yet: allowing county clerks to refuse same-sex marriage licenses, businesses to fire LGBT workers and adoption agencies from refusing gay couples.
• In Georgia, lawmakers passed a bill that would have allowed religious groups to fire people they don't feel are in line with their faith and refuse to rent space to anyone deemed "objectionable." But Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed it this week after Disney threatened to stop filming movies there and the NFL said it may not consider Atlanta for a future Super Bowl.