JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi's governor has signed a law that lets religious groups and private businesses refuse service to gay couples based on religious beliefs.

Gov. Phil Bryant signed House Bill 1523, despite opposition from gay-rights groups and some businesses who say it allows discrimination. Some conservative and religious groups supported the bill. Opponents of the law, however, see it as a sword against LGBT people, not a shield for Christian conservatives.

The measure's stated goal is to protect those who believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman, that sexual relations should only take place inside such marriages, and that male and female genders are unchangeable.

The measure allows churches, religious charities and privately held businesses to decline services to people whose lifestyles violate their religious beliefs. Individual government employees may also opt out, although the measure says governments must still provide services.

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