Pascagoula, Miss. is home to a world-famous shipyard, with a workforce of more than 12,000 employees and a portfolio of ships that number in the hundreds. As one of the Navy’s leading producers of warships for more than 75 years, the Gulf Coast town is no stranger to tradition.

When the Navy’s ships are completed, protocol holds that dignitaries and government officials visit the Ingalls shipyard to celebrate the christening and commissioning of the warships. However, it seems that tradition will be interrupted, thanks to the state’s newly enacted anti-gay discrimination law.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, a former Mississippi governor, announced last week the decision to have the newly built USS Portland commissioned next year in its namesake Pacific Northwest city instead of on the Gulf Coast, where it was built.

Additionally, the mayor of Portland, Ore. has cancelled his trip to Mississippi to attend the christening ceremony of the ship.

“I will not travel to a state that legalizes bigotry,” said Portland Mayor Charlie Hales.

A view of various ships under construction at the Ingalls Shipbuilding shipyard. (U.S. Navy/Special to The Pulse)

A view of various ships under construction at the Ingalls Shipbuilding shipyard. (U.S. Navy/Special to The Pulse)

Hales will adhere to city policy that prohibits spending public money on travel to states or cities with discriminatory policies, which includes Mississippi. On Wednesday, the Portland City Council voted unanimously to prohibit government travel to the Magnolia State.

Hales’ decision to skip the trip to Pascagoula comes as a direct response to Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant’s signing of HB1523, which legalizes discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people. The law will take effect July 1.

“If the law is repealed, he would attend,” said City of Portland spokeswoman Sara Hottman.

“The First Lady and I were invited by the U.S. Secretary of the Navy to help christen the USS Portland in Mississippi. We will not be taking that trip unless that discriminatory law is repealed,” Hales said this week. “It would be a shame if the mayor of Portland couldn’t attend the christening of the USS Portland, but I will not travel to a state that legalizes bigotry.”

The “Religious Liberty Accommodations Act” allows churches, religious charities and privately held businesses to decline services to people whose lifestyles violate their religious beliefs. Government employees are also protected under the new law.

Several states have banned government travel to Mississippi in the wake of the new law’s passage.

The naval warship was launched at the Pascagoula shipyard in February.

CORRECTION: The previous headline of this story stated the commissioning ceremony of the USS Portland had been moved from Pascagoula, Miss. to Portland, Ore. According to Huntington Ingalls Industries officials, the commissioning ceremony was never planned to take place in Pascagoula. The headline has been corrected.


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