Appeal to Mississippi’s stayed “religious freedom” bill enters federal court
Mississippi’s state-wide “religious freedom” bill was halted by a lower court this year, but its conservative Governor had appealed that decision and it has now entered the Federal level.
LGBTQ advocates at Lambda Legal have joined the 12 MS residents in decrying the law which broadly allows both religious and non religious groups from denying services which could go against their religious beliefs. Those beliefs include marriage exclusively being between one man and one woman, ”sexual relations are properly reserved” for this kind of marriage, and gender is ”objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.”
It keeps the government from prosecuting any organization who denies services based on these believes as long as it is “wholly or partially” part of the business.
“This law is a wolf in sheep’s clothing—it is LGBT discrimination disguised as religious freedom,” said Susan Sommer, Director of Constitutional Litigation at Lambda Legal, who has filed a brief supporting the stay. “The law sets an array of traps for LGBT people, from allowing government employees to refuse to serve them, to leaving LGBT youth in foster care unprotected from dangerous condemnation by the adults who are supposed to help them.”
But MS’s Governor Bryant (top image), who hired private council after the state’s AG refused to defend the law, is hopeful the law will stand.
In their appeal, Bryant’s lawyers said gives “opponents of same-sex marriage the same conscientious-objector protections that federal law confers on the opponents of warfare, abortion, capital punishment and physician-assisted suicide.”
MS civil rights attorney Robert McDuff and the Mississippi Center for Justice filed two lawsuits agianst Governor Bryant over the law back in June. A circuit court found in favor of the equality groups and stayed the law, however Bryant is pushing the issue to the higher court.
In statement sent out last Friday, Lambda Legal expressed hope that the 5th Circuit court of appeals would keep the stay in place.
“Because this law endorses discrimination in the name of religion, it violates the First Amendment’s prohibition on government endorsement of religious beliefs and the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equality before the law,” McDuff said. “We hope and believe that the appeals court will uphold the injunction we won in the federal district court. The plaintiffs in our case represent the many thousands of Mississippians who oppose this misguided law.
But Bryant is confident the law, which Lambda compared to similar, economically damaging religious freedom bills in both Indiana and North Carolina, will stand.
“The district court’s decision is ripe for reversal and we are confident that, as this case moves ahead, it will be reversed,” Bryant said according to The Clarion-Ledger. “The people of Mississippi have the right to ensure that all of our citizens are free to peacefully live and work without fear of being punished for their sincerely held beliefs. And as governor, it is my duty to uphold my oath to defend the people of Mississippi and the laws passed by those entrusted to represent them.”
Top image via Facebook
BREAKING: Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoes ‘religious freedom’ legislation, calls them “bad for business”
“We need only look at the damage these types of laws are doing in other states to understand the harm this bill could bring to our Commonwealth and its economy.March 23, 2017
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