Portland mayor will not attend event in Mississippi over 'religi - KPTV - FOX 12

Portland mayor will not attend event in Mississippi over 'religious freedom' law

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Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, FOX 12 file image Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, FOX 12 file image

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales will not travel to an event in Mississippi due to a new law that he says legalizes discrimination.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed House Bill 1523 on Tuesday that allows religious groups and some private businesses to deny services to gay and transgender people.

The governor said the bill protects religious freedom.

At Wednesday's Portland City Council meeting, Hales said, "Travel bans are often symbolic, but this time it will have a substantial impact."

The mayor and first lady were invited by the U.S. Secretary of the Navy to help christen the USS Portland in Mississippi in May.

Hales said they will not be making the trip unless "that discriminatory law is repealed."

"It would be a shame if the mayor of Portland couldn't attend the christening of the USS Portland, but I will not travel to a state that legalizes bigotry," Hales said.

The city of Portland previously suspended all city-funded travel for public employees to North Carolina due to a new law there that states cities and counties can't pass measures protecting people based on sexual orientation and gender identity when they use public accommodations.

According to an Associated Press report, the Mississippi law would, for example, allow a church group to decline housing or adoption services to gay couples. Privately held businesses could refuse marriage-related services - a hotel could refuse to rent a ballroom for a same-sex marriage and a jeweler could refuse to sell rings to a gay couple. Any employer or school could refuse to allow a transgender person to use the bathroom of their choice.

Hales said Wednesday he will bring a resolution to the Portland City Council to support overturning the law and temporarily suspend city travel by public employees on city time to Mississippi.

On Wednesday, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury released a statement saying publicly funded travel by county employees to Mississippi would be banned while the law remains in place.

"It's disappointing to see yet another state -- Mississippi -- legalizing discrimination against the LGBT community. I want to be clear that the message from Multnomah County residents to such legislation is a resounding 'No.' We won't stand by and tolerate discrimination against any of our community members," Kafoury said in a statement. 

Copyright 2016 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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