A Mississippi law that legalises anti-gay discrimination on the grounds of ‘religious freedom’ has come into effect.

Mississippi passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in April, which legalises discrimination against gay and lesbian people based on religious beliefs.

The act, which bans authorities from placing a “burden” on “a person’s right to the exercise of religion”, and could be used to protect business owners who discriminate against LGBT people, was signed by Republican Governor Phil Bryant less than a week later.

The law has now come into effect, meaning that as of July 1, businesses in the state are effectively allowed to turn away or discriminate against customers on the grounds of their sexuality, if they claim to do so because of religious beliefs.

Several cities in the state have attempted to opt out of the law, approving resolutions which reinforce the equality of its LGBT residents.

Cities including Jackson, Bay St Louis, Greenville, Hattiesburg, Magnolia, Oxford and Starkville, have passed such resolutions.

Equality Mississippi are resisting the law by distributing window stickers for businesses saying: “We don’t discriminate – If you’re buying, we’re selling!”.

American Family Association spokesman Buddy Smith had claimed the businesses with the stickers were “bullying” Christians, saying: “It’s not really a buying campaign, but it’s a bully campaign, and it’s being carried out by radical homosexual activists who intend to trample the freedom of Christians to live according to the dictates of scripture.

Chef John Currence, who has protested the law, said: “More than anything else, the law sends a terrible message about the state if consciousness in the state of Mississippi.

“We are not going to sit idly by and watch Jim Crow get revived in our state.”

The law also adds “In God We Trust” to the state seal.