MBJ staff and wire reports
After the opening of a Grammy Museum in the Mississippi Delta, the first outside Los Angeles, the California museum’s’ director, Bob Santelli, said he and his 28-year-old gay son have canceled plans to visit the high-tech facility in Cleveland, Mississippi.
The Delta museum opened March 5 and Executive Director Emily Havens said in a recent interview that attendance in the first month exceeded projections.
However, after Gov. Phil Bryant signed House Bill 1523, which becomes law July 1 and will let government and business workers cite religious beliefs against same-sex marriage to deny services to people.
Santelli said his son said he couldn’t visit Mississippi because he believes the law allows for discrimination.
“He’s my only son and someone who I really wanted to see the Grammy Museum. He won’t come now, and I don’t blame him,” Santelli said.
Santelli joins a list of entertainers and other public figures, businesses, human rights groups and religious leaders, who have condemned the law. President Barack Obama said he wanted the Mississippi law and a similar one in North Carolina overturned.
Supporters of the law, including Bryant, said it will protect people’s religious beliefs in light of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last summer that effectively legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.
In an April 20 interview, Bryant called the negative response to the bill “overreaction,” adding that “you would think that there would be some discriminatory action taking place here in Mississippi. If that were the fact, I would not have signed the bill.”
Several other states have laws that say people would not have to provide services for same-sex marriages if doing so violates their religious beliefs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (http://bit.ly/1SRAIPQ ).
Santelli said musicians working with the museum had called him to express frustration with the law, though they said they would still help with the museum’s educational programs.
“I have long been an advocate for Mississippi, as a music historian,” he said. “I’ve been to the state many times and been moved by the hospitality I’ve been shown everywhere I traveled. This is step backward for the state, and it saddens me.”
The city of Cleveland, Bolivar County and the state together put up more than $12 million for the museum, with the rest coming from private donors. In March, Cleveland Chamber of Commerce director Judson Thigpen estimated the museum could bring in about $20 million a year as a regional tourist attraction.
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