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Attorneys Ask Appeals Court to Block Mississippi Religious Liberty Law
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Summary: Attorneys for dozens of LGBT individuals filed to stop a religious freedom law from taking effect. 

In Mississippi, religious freedom reigns, but some individuals believe that people use their beliefs to discriminate against others. Currently, it is legal for businesses and government officials to deny services to individuals if those services conflict with their religious values. Often times, this negatively affects members of the LGBTQ community, which is why liberal attorneys filed papers on Thursday asking the 5th U.S. Circuit of Appeals to block the law.

  
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House Bill 1523 (HB 1523) is also known as The Religious Liberty Accommodations Act or the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act. It was passed in 2016 and protects the following three beliefs: Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage, and male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.

The U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages nationwide in 2015, but because of HB 1523, merchants can reject providing goods for same-sex marriages and government clerks can deny issuing same-sex marriage certificates without fear of repercussion. The law could also affect same-sex parental adoption and transgender bathroom use.

Opponents of the law that was signed by Republican Governor Phil Bryant said that it is too broad and allows discrimination against the gay, lesbian, and transgender community.

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“HB 1523 is offensive to the rights of LGBT and other dissenting Mississippians and to the Supreme Court’s command on this burning civil rights issue,” attorneys for a dozen LGBTQ plaintiffs wrote in their Thursday filing.

In July 2016, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves blocked the law from taking effect because he deemed it unconstitutional, stating it preferred the rights of one group over another. However, almost a year later in June of 2017, an appeals court lifted Reeves’ ban, saying that the state failed to show harm.



Brandiilyne Dear, a married lesbian pastor in Hattiesburg, said that the reversal of HB 1523 devastated her.

“LGBTQ people navigate through life by avoiding the places where we believe we will receive discrimination or looked at differently,” Dear told The Advocate. “Many people stay in the closet, or they won’t hold their spouse’s hand in public. These are things that other people take for granted every single day — like walking into a restaurant and enjoying a meal with your loved one or being able tell them that you love them.”

The June 2017 panel did not decide on whether or not the religious freedom law was constitutional, and they said that “federal courts must withhold judgment unless and until that plaintiff comes forward” to show that the law actually hurt them.

After the injunction was lifted, Governor Bryant told USA Today that he was pleased with the court’s decision.

“As I have said all along, the legislation is not meant to discriminate against anyone, but simply prevents government interference with the constitutional right to exercise sincerely held religious beliefs,” Bryant said.

Source: The Associated Press

Photo courtesy of NPR

What do you think of HB 1523? Let us know in the comments below.



 

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