Mississippi anti-LGBT ‘religious freedom’ law takes effect
A Mississippi law enabling sweeping anti-LGBT discrimination in the name of “religious freedom” took effect Tuesday as a result of a federal appeals court decision throwing out a legal challenge to the statute.
The law, House Bill 1523, was signed by Gov. Phil Bryant last year in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage nationwide. The purported intent of the law is to protect individuals who have religious beliefs contrary to the ruling, but the measure approaches that in a way that would allow anti-LGBT discrimination.
The law prohibits the state from taking action against religious organizations that decline employment, housing or services to same-sex couples; families who’ve adopted a foster child and wish to act in opposition to same-sex marriage and individuals who offer wedding services and decline to facilitate a same-sex wedding.
Additionally, the bill allows individuals working in medical services to decline a transgender person’s request for gender reassignment surgery. The bill also allows state government employees who facilitate marriages the option to opt out of issuing licenses to same-sex couples, but the person must issue prior written notice to the state government and a clerk’s office must not delay the issuance of licenses.
Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, spelled out the potential consequences of the law in a statement on the day it went into effect.
“The insidious power of a law like this is that it casts a long shadow over public life, forcing someone to assess whether they will be treated fairly and respectfully in situations from the crisis of an emergency room to an anniversary dinner at a restaurant to a child’s classroom,” Beach-Ferrara said. “Now we face the cruel reality of the law going into effect and the imminent threat it poses to the dignity, health and well-being of LGBT Mississippians.”
Last month, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reconsider “en banc” before the full court an earlier decision by a three-judge panel to throw out legal challenges to the law — one filed by the Campaign for Southern Equality, the other by the Joshua Generation Metropolitan Community Church and 13 Mississippi ministers,
The three-judge panel determined plaintiffs in the lawsuit lacked standing to challenge the law, reversing the trial court ruling that found HB 1523 violated the Establishment Clause by allowing state-sanctioned discrimination under one particular religious view.
GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement the fight against the law continues despite its harmful effects on LGBT people.
By Chris Johnson, Washington Blade – October 10, 2017
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