The blowback from Mississippi’s discriminatory anti-LGBTQ law has hit college baseball.
The University of Southern Mississippi will lose out on a planned three-game series against Stony Brook University in February due to the fallout from House Bill 1523, which went into effect in October. Also known as the Protecting Freedom of Conscience From Government Discrimination Act, the legislation permits people of faith to discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community without reprisal from local or state government.
Following that bill’s passage in March 2016, New York Governor Mario Cuomo banned all “non-essential” state travel to the Magnolia State in protest. Stony Brook, which is part of the SUNY system, is thus prohibited from playing away games in Hattiesburg, Miss.
Officials at USM expressed disappointment with the series’ cancellation.
“I just hate losing the three home games,” head coach Scott Berry told The Sun-Herald, a newspaper based in Biloxi, Miss., in a Tuesday interview. “I’m sure it’s going to cost us.”
Stony Brook’s athletics department apologized for putting the university in the position of having to pull out of the games. Brian Miller, who serves as the college’s associate athletic director of communications, claimed the department “did not realize that the travel ban included Mississippi.”
“We knew it was North Carolina, but we did not realize that it included Mississippi,” Miller told The Sun-Herald.
Cuomo instituted a similar ban on travel to the Tar Heel State following the passage of House Bill 2, a law which mandated that transgender people use public bathrooms that do not correspond with their gender identity. North Carolina repealed and replaced that controversial legislation with a nearly identical law earlier this year.
After reviewing the new proposal, Cuomo kept the ban in place.
“In New York, we believe that all peopleregardless of their gender identity or sexual orientationdeserve the same rights and protections under the eyes of the law,” Cuomo said at the time. “We will not stand idly by as misguided legislation replicates the discrimination of the past.”
“As long as there is a law in North Carolina that creates the grounds for discrimination against LGBTQ people, I am barring non-essential state travel to that state,” he continued.
It remains to be seen if HB 1523 will result in the same backlash as HB 2. The North Carolina law was originally estimated to cost the state $3.76 billion over the next 11 years, according to an estimate from the Associated Press. Sporting leagues like the National Basketball Association and Atlantic Coast Conference pulled championship games from North Carolina after the law’s passage, including the 2018 All-Star Game.
The leagues would capitulate and permit title matches to be held in the state once more after the so-called “compromise bill” was signed in April 2017. That legislation kept nearly all of the most damaging provisions of HB 2 in place while striking down local LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination laws until 2020.
The cancelled game between Stony Brook and the University of Southern Mississippi is one of the first signs of repercussions against the nation’s most extreme anti-LGBTQ law.
HB 1523 allows for broad-based bigotry on the basis of “sincerely held religious belief.” For instance, the bill could permit gay people to be fired for having a picture of their partner on their desk or a hospital to turn away a patient for being transgender. Critics pointed out it could even be used to discriminate against single mothers, unmarried couples, or women who wear pants.
LGBTQ advocates filed an injunction to keep the bill from becoming law, but that was lifted by a federal court in June 2017.