By JACK WEATHERLY
Bob Santelli wants to make it perfectly clear: He loves Mississippi and he is totally committed to the Grammy Museum of Mississippi.
In fact, Santelli, executive director of the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, was in Jackson on Monday when he was interviewed by phone.
“I’m heading up for a meeting” in Cleveland, Santelli said.
Santelli had been quoted in an Associated Press article with a Jackson dateline that he and his son canceled a trip they had been planning a trip to the museum, which opened March 5.
But he said his 28-year-old son, who is gay, said he didn’t feel comfortable about visiting the state after Gov. Phil Bryant signed House Bill 1523, which will go into effect July 1 and let government and businesses cite religious beliefs in refusing services for same-sex couples and others.
“I just want people to know that I have every intention to do everything I can to make the museum a success,” Santelli told the Mississippi Business Journal. The $20 million, 28,000-square-foot building got $12 million of its financing from the public sector – state, Bolivar County and city of Cleveland – and $8 million from private donors.
“We’re joined at the hip – I don’t intend to be a stranger.”
Crystal Larsen, communications manager for the Los Angeles museum, said that “it’s really too early to tell” if the legislation can have a major impact on the Cleveland facility.
It has had an effect on entertainment and tourism. Members of the film industry, which is linked to tourism, have said the law will have a dampening effect.
Actress Sharon Stone said that a short film she had planned to shoot in Biloxi would be taken elsewhere. Singer Bryan Adams canceled a performance and comedian Tracy Morgan decided against going on with a show at Horsehoe Casino in Tunica. Organizers of what would have been the 37th Mississippi in Central Park in New York city on June 12 canceled the celebration of the state because of the legislation.
Santelli said he has talked with some recording artists who were concerned by the law, but that they would lend their support of the educational aspect of the museum.
In a letter to the editor of The Clarion-Ledger, Santelli said: “I write this letter not as a museum head or music historian but as a concerned American and father of a gay son. I am deeply disturbed by the passage of the ‘religious liberty accommodations act.’ I am saddened by the great step backward your fine state has taken.
“I deeply admire your state’s music and culture. I’ve been moved by the hospitality I’ve been shown where I’ve traveled in your state. I’m especially proud of Grammy Museum Mississippi . . . . But it saddens me that my son will now never feel welcomed enough to one day visit it.
“I truly hope the good people of Mississippi seriously reconsider this bill, examine the hurt and pain it will cause to other Americans and ultimately remove it from its law books.”
A gathering organized by the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP and the Human Rights Campaign held a rally outside the Governor’s Mansion on Sunday calling for repeal of the act.
The legislation was passed as a reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage last year, proponents say.
North Carolina recently enacted a law that requires transgender people to use bathrooms corresponding to their sex at birth.
The Campaign for Southern Equality has said it may seek a federal court injunction to block the Mississippi law, according to The Clarion-Ledger, as it successfully negated a Mississippi ban on same-sex marriages.
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