BY EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS
JACKSON, Miss. -- Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed a bill Thursday that supporters say will assure unfettered practice of religion without government interference but that opponents worry could lead to state-sanctioned discrimination against gays and lesbians.
The bill, called the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act, will become law July 1. It also will add "In God We Trust" to the state seal.
An early version of the bill, considered weeks ago, was similar to one Arizona's Republican governor, Jan Brewer, vetoed after business groups said it could hurt that state's economy. Supporters say the final Mississippi bill bears little resemblance to the failed Arizona measure.
Outside the state Capitol on Thursday, more than 75 gay-rights supporters protested against the bill. Jeff White of Waveland, a founder of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Lesbian and Gay Community Center, said as someone who is gay and Jewish, he worries such a new law could make him more vulnerable to unfair treatment.
"It's the first time in my life that I've actually considered moving out of Mississippi," said White, 32. "It made me physically ill the past few days, realizing what they're trying to do."