Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant on Tuesday signed what is being widely called one of the most antigay laws on the books in an American state. The law allows public employees (specifically defined by the statute as including those who work at public colleges) to deny services if they feel that providing the services would violate the employees' belief that same-sex marriage is wrong and that sex outside of heterosexual marriage is wrong.
Jeffrey S. Vitter, chancellor of the University of Mississippi, sent a letter to the campus seeking to reassure students, faculty members and staff that the university will continue to promote equity and diversity.
"Some of you have inquired about how recent legislation will affect our campus operations and ethos. I am writing to reaffirm that the mission and values of the University of Mississippi have not changed," Vitter wrote. "Our primary purpose is to be an academic institution that creates, evaluates, shares and applies knowledge in a free, open and inclusive environment of intellectual inquiry. Our main campus in Oxford, our four regional campuses and our academic health center provide academic, research and professional programs and health care to tens of thousands of people. The members of the university and those we serve are part of a diverse community of different religions, ages, political perspectives, physical abilities, races, sexual orientations, gender expressions, nationalities, cultures, fields of study and other characteristics. Diversity is a hallmark of education and enriches the environment and experiences of all our campus constituents. We will always support all members of our community and uphold the UM creed, which calls on us to respect the dignity of each person."
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