JACKSON, Miss. (WNS) – A federal judge blocked religious-liberty protections in Mississippi on June 30 hours before they were set to go into effect.
In a last minute, 60-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves struck down all provisions to protect religious people from being forced to participate same-sex weddings in House Bill 1523, calling the law “state-sanctioned discrimination.”
“Every American should be alarmed at the speed and aggression with which our fundamental freedoms—free speech, free exercise of faith, and freedom of conscience—are being eviscerated in the culture and now the courts,” said Greg Scott, a spokesman for Alliance Defending Freedom.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican, signed the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act in April and immediately received pushback from LGBT advocates. Bryant supported the bill as a way to defend those with sincerely held religious beliefs on marriage and sex. The law would have protected business owners from participating in same-sex weddings, doctors from performing sex-reassignment surgeries, and clerks from issuing same-sex marriage licenses. But, Reeves said Mississippi didn’t need any of those protections for persons of faith.
“Under the guise of providing additional protection for religious exercise, it creates a vehicle for state-sanctioned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity,” Reeves wrote. “There are almost endless explanations for how HB 1523 condones discrimination against the LGBT community, but in its simplest terms it denies LGBT citizens equal protection under the law.”
The law’s sponsors sought to protect several core beliefs: Marriage is only between a man and a woman, sex should only take place in marriage, and a person’s gender is defined by biology.
In a statement this morning, Bryant expressed disappointment those beliefs took a hit, but indicated he would continue to fight for the bill to resurface.
“Like I said when I signed House Bill 1523, the law simply provides religious accommodations granted by many other states and federal law,” Bryant said. “I am disappointed Judge Reeves did not recognize that reality. I look forward to an aggressive appeal.”
Earlier in the week, Reeves struck down part of the law that allowed county clerks to abstain from issuing same-sex marriage licenses in the state. The Campaign for Southern Equality (CSE), a pro-gay legal organization, had sued, saying the law violated last year’s Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. Reeves agreed, saying Mississippi would enforce the ruling.