JACKSON, Miss. — Mitchell Moore, owner of Campbell’s Bakery in the Fondren neighborhood of Jackson, was at home late on April 1 when he read a Facebook post from a lesbian friend that had a “frantic feel to it.”
The Mississippi House of Representatives in a 79-43 vote had just passed Senate Bill 2681 — the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act — that activists argue would allow businesses to deny services to LGBT people based on their religious beliefs.
The Mississippi Senate quickly followed suit in a late-night vote.
“I was like why would they do this?” Moore told the Washington Blade last week during an interview at his bakery, referring to previous incidents of bakers and photographers who denied services to same-sex couples. “I thought great, I am the only baker in Jackson that does wedding cakes. I was like great; they’re going to pass this bill and then people are going to call me and say ‘hey, are you against gay people getting married? Are you not going to make cakes for gay people now that it’s illegal to do that?’”
Moore decided to launch a Facebook page against SB 2681 even before Gov. Phil Bryant signed it into law during a private ceremony that Family Research Council President Tony Perkins and members of the Mississippi-based American Family Association and other anti-LGBT groups attended on April 3.
“I thought no, I’m not going to have my name and my business attached to anything that I don’t agree with,” said Moore, a straight Republican who is married and has a 2-year-old daughter. “I’m not going to have politicians speak on my behalf. I’m not going to have them take actions that I vehemently disagree with.”
Moore, along with Eddie Outlaw, a gay salon owner who grew up outside Yazoo City in the Mississippi Delta, Joce Pritchett of Jackson and a handful of others soon launched the “We don’t discriminate” campaign that features blue stickers with a thin rainbow band and the slogan “If you’re buying, we’re selling.”
More than 1,000 businesses across the state and around the country have received stickers since the campaign formally launched.
“The message is we don’t discriminate,” said Moore, referring to four Middle Eastern men who purchased a birthday cake and wrote a message on it in Arabic at his bakery after they read about the campaign. “I don’t care if you’re a Muslim. I don’t care if you’re black, I don’t care if you’re gay. I don’t care. You’re my customer. I’m here to sell to everybody. I have a business that’s open to the public.”
Kelly Kyle, a gay lawyer in Ridgeland, a suburb of Jackson, also launched a Facebook group called Mississippians Against Discrimination of Any Kind when he first heard about SB 2681.
He told the Blade during a Thursday interview at his office that the only thing he and others knew about the measure was that it sought to add “In God We Trust” into the state seal.
“We just feel it is leaving the door open to discrimination,” said Kyle. “Frankly the bill was unnecessary in the first place. There is no protection for community to begin with. They’re adding something on top of that that really wasn’t necessary in the first place.”